District News 1917

Tolsta District News 1917 as reported in the Stornoway Gazette



Gunner Angus MacMillan, R.F.A., has recently visited his parents living at Glen-Tolsta. Angus may well be described as a war-scarred veteran. He had seen much service in the South African War. Before the present war broke out he was a sailor, but although he was then fifty years of age he at once rejoined his old regiment and crossed to France with the first Expeditionary Force, and there he has been wounded four times. Out of the Battery with which he crossed in 1914 he can now trace only one man.


A number of the local men interned in Holland are at present at home on a month's leave. They will be returning in the course of a few days.


So far this has been an exceptionally mild winter and the boats engaged in the haddock fishing are getting some big catches. Owing however to the scarcity of young men and the want of a wire-rope for the Minch, the crews have much difficulty in hauling their boats when they come ashore.


So well has this district responded to the call of King and Country that, should the military age be raised to 45, not an additional man could be obtained.



The pupils attending the Bible Class conducted under the auspices of the above Mission, met on the evening if the 3rd January, for their annual treat of tea, cake, buns, etc. They were entertained by Nurse Stewart,their teacher, assisted by the Misses MacIver, MacLeod and MacArthur, school teachers. Nurse Stewart addressed the children, and thereafter solos were sung and readings and recitations given by the above named ladies. Several hymns were sung by the children. Nurse Stewart closed the meeting with the reading of Scripture and prayer. Mr Duff, the Secretary of the Mission, who takes such a kindly interest in everything that pertains to the welfare of the people of North Tolsta, sent as usual, a liberal supply of cake and sweets. And this as well as his other acts of generosity to the district, was much appreciated.



The two local boats formerly fishing for haddocks have now turned to the herring. They have been pretty successful so far. One of them last week earned over £70 and the other one, although losing half her nets, had a good week also.


Last Saturday evening about seven o'clock, there was an outbreak of fire at 12 North Tolsta.
 A boy of ten years of age, a son of widow John MacDonald, went to the barn to feed the lambs. Somehow the lambs jumped out of the pen and escaped by a back door. The boy, when he ran out to find them, left his lamp too near the corn. On returning he found the corn blazing. 
He tried to put the flames out, with the result that he himself had a very narrow escape. The alarm was at once raised.

Fortunately the fishermen were ashore, and most of the men on furlough happened to be living near at hand. Every available man was at once on the scene. 
As the burning barn was to windward, it was feared that the dwelling house would take fire, and the furniture was removed. At this time the flames had penetrated through the roof of the barn, and the conflagration could be seen several miles away. The situation now caused great anxiety. The houses are so crowded in this part of the village that several men, in order to get at the fire quickly, clambered over the roof of the dwelling-house.

Some of the men attended to the neighbouring houses in case of emergency. Others looked to the thatch of the dwelling house upon which the flames were now freely playing, while most of them, amidst the forking flames, got hold of the couplings and rafters of the burning building, and by wrenching the wood under the burning roof collapsed into the barn with a crash. The men now leaped into the smouldering mass and managed to extinguish the fire. Many of them got their hands burnt and their boots and clothes badly singed. But for the prompt and vigorous action of the men the whole cluster of houses in the near vicinity would have been burnt to the ground.

The women did their "bit" splendidly. Owing to the dry weather and frost, water was difficult to obtain. 
However, after having exhausted the weekend water supply of their houses, a large contingent of them rushed with their pails to a stream 400 yards distant, and by their keeping up a good supply of water they materially helped to extinguish the fire. The corn, seed and potatoes in the barn were rendered practically useless. Much sympathy is felt for Widow MacDonald, who has in the war lost her husband and her only brother.



Much sympathy is felt for Mr and Mrs Donald MacKay, 16 North Tolsta, who last week lost their only child after a short illness. What makes the case so very pathetic is that they lost another child last September. The deceased were the grandchildren of the respected missionary of the Free Church of North Tolsta, Mr Angus MacKay, who himself had, not so very long ago, passed through very deep sorrow, having lost his wife and six grown-up children within a few years of one another. Much sympathy is extended to him also who is in his old age has now lost these two grandchildren, who were born and brought up in his own home.


This district has given 200 men to the colours, which is equivalent to 3.5 per cent of the total population and 50 per cent of the males.
There were 124 men mobilised at the beginning of the war; but since then 76 men have enlisted voluntarily. 47 in 1914, 20 in 1915 and 9 since the beginning of 1916. 
If however, this district has nobly responded it has severely suffered in having lost 22 of its bravest sons.

These casualties are made up of seven R.N.R.s, seven Seaforths, six Gordons, one Cameron Highlander, and one Australian. There are seven widows left with 38 children. Seven of the other men lost have left a large number of total dependants. Including widows and orphans, there are altogether now about 100 dependants left in the district. Widow MacDonald, 12 North Tolsta, has lost her husband and her only brother; Mr. Kenneth MacLeod, 56 North Tolsta, has lost two sons; Donald Murray, R.N.R., 22 North Tolsta, has lost a son and a brother; and Widow J. Martin, 76 North Tolsta, and Mr. D. MacLeod, Hill Street, have lost their only sons. Fifteen of the Tolsta men are interned in Holland, and another local man is a prisoner of war in Germany. The hamlet of Glen-Tolsta, with a population of under forty, has given ten men to the forces, seven of whom enlisted between August and September, 1914. An excellent record of voluntary enlistment



The haddock fishing continues to be very prosperous. Each of the two local boats engaged had one day last week very heavy shots. Single lines in several cases brought in more than two hundred and forty fish each. More luck to them!


On Friday of last week Miss Donaldina MacArthur, who had been for more than three years on the staff of the Tolsta Public School, was, on the occasion of her leaving to take up duties in Sandwick Public School, presented with a gold pendant set with pearls and amethysts, as a parting gift from teachers, scholars and some other friends. 
Mr. MacDonald, headmaster, who presided, spoke highly of Miss MacArthur, and expressed his regret at losing so efficient a teacher.

The presentation was made by Miss Matilda MacDonald, one of Miss MacArthur's little scholars, and as she fastened the chain round her teacher's neck, Miss MacIver spoke for the school. She asked Miss MacArthur to accept the gift they had chosen as a token of their keen appreciation of her as a teacher, colleague and friend, and wished her every success in her new sphere. 
Miss MacLeod suitably replied on behalf of Miss MacArthur. The pendant was supplied by Mr. MacGilvray, jeweller, Stornoway.


Among those who are at present home on leave are - Sergt. Alexander MacIver, Australian Contingent, son of Mr. Alex MacIver, 30 North Tolsta; and Mr. Alexander Murray, 29 North Tolsta. 
Sergt. MacIver emigrated to Australia nine years ago. He spent the first three years there on a sheep station, but afterwards went to Brisbane where he became an engineer. He was very successful in his trade.

Two years ago he bought a fruit farm a few miles out of Brisbane. He has now employed a manager to carry on the farm work, while he himself enlisted in March, 1916, and came to this country two months ago. 
Mr. Murray emigrated to Canada ten years ago, and after spending a year or two in the colony proceeded to Chicago, where he qualified in electrical engineering.

For some years he was employed as a superintendent with the Canadian Cement Company, and this firm has been engaged for over a year in the making of munitions. Mr. Murray enlisted in the Canadian Navy last year. 
Both are typical examples of our Scottish colonials. While the two were chatting over the reminiscences of their boyhood, a local worthy came up to them and after hailing them in real Highland fashion said - "What a powerful bugle-call when it has brought the one of you from the Canadian Prairie and the other one from the Australian Bush! Here we have another two examples of the patriotic response made by Lewis."



Miss Annie MacLean, Bayhead Cottage, Stornoway, has entered upon her duties in the school here as successor to Miss MacArthur, appointed to Sandwick Public School. Miss MacLean before coming to Lewis taught in Kilirivagh Public School, South Uist, and she had also been teaching in St. Kilda for three years.


The two boats fishing out of the village went drifting for herring last Friday night, but they had no success. They just landed their nets and returned at once to sea with their haddock lines. On Saturday morning they landed about 3000 haddock between them which was sold locally. They also had good shots on Monday and Tuesday.


The following were home on leave last week:- Mr. Angus MacKenzie, 48 North Tolsta; Mr. Roderick MacDonald, 23 North Tolsta; Mr. Angus MacMillan, 4 Glen-Tolsta; and last, but not least, Mr. John MacIver, 41 North Tolsta, who has come home to marry a young lady from the Point district. We hope we shall hear of more marriages in the district shortly.


The following names are to be added to those already published:- Evander MacIver, R.N.R., 11 North Tolsta; and Murdo Smith, Seaforths, 56 North Tolsta. The two brothers of the former are already serving - Angus interned in Holland, and John in the Royal Naval Reserve. The father and a brother of the latter are in the Seaforths and another brother is in the Royal Naval Reserve. The two were under 18 years of age. A number of young men from the village working in Rosyth also volunteered several months ago, but as they are engaged in Government work they have not so far been allowed to leave their present occupation.



The following seamen have been recently at home for a few days - D. Campbell, 54 North Tolsta; Angus MacLeod, 6 North Tolsta; Angus Nicolson, 9 North Tolsta, and William MacLeod, 6 North Tolsta. The last named was rescued from H.M.S. "Triumph" when she was sunk in the Dardanelles. He also took part in the sinking of the ill-fated German raider last year in the North Sea.


The haddock fishing continues to be very prosperous. Bait is at times very difficult to obtain, crews have very much difficulty in hauling their boats, especially when the tide is out. But inspite of all these drawbacks the boats manage to get to sea four or five times every week. The weather is so favourable that even old men, are naturally ready to extol the glories of the past, willingly concede that this is the mildest winter experienced here for the past forty years.


We regret to record the death of Mrs. Mary MacKay, widow of the late Donald MacKay, 64 North Tolsta. The deceased was 70 years of age and had been in indifferent health for several years. Her two sons are on active service and neither of them was able to get home for the funeral. 
We are also sorry to announce the death of Donald MacDonald, only son of Murdo MacDonald, 60 North Tolsta. The deceased, who was 23 years of age, had been in bad health for the past five years, but in spite of his sufferings during these years, he was always bright and cheerful. One of his chief regrets was that he was not able to join his former school mates in defending his King and Country.
He was so well versed in the war news that he was considered an oracle by the old men in the neighbourhood, who spent many hours in his company. Much sympathy goes out to the bereaved famillies.


At Flesherin, Portnaguran, on Tuesday last, John MacIver, R.N.R., son of Mr. Alex MacIver, 41 North Tolsta, was married to Catherine, daughter of Mr. Finlay MacDonald, Flesherin. The offiating clergyman was the Rev. N. MacIntyre.



Miss Christina MacLeod, Stornoway, has been appointed by the School Board to the staff of North Tolsta Public School, at the salary of £70 per annum.
Miss MacLeod will complete her training at Aberdeen this Summer and will be able to take up her duties in July.


The following seamen were home for a few days this week:- Torquil Campbell, 34 North Tolsta; John MacDonald, 1 North Tolsta; Donald MacLeod, 45 North Tolsta and Kenneth MacKay, 30 North Tolsta. The last named learned the sad news on arriving in Stornoway that one of his children, a girl five years old, had died a few days ago. This little girl had diphtheria some time ago, and before she got over the effects of that trouble pneumonia set in, to which she succumbed. His mother had died just a week before his child.

What makes the case still more pathetic is that his wife has been practically blind for the past three weeks, although it is sincerely hoped that she will yet be able to go about her work. Much sympathy goes out to the family in their sore trouble.


During the past three weeks fully a fourth of the hens in this district have died of a disease, recognised by a poultry expert as "fowl cholera" which he says is comparatively rare in this country although very prevalent on the Continent. This is a great loss to poultry-keepers after having spent so much on the feeding of these fowls during the past months.


It was reported at the meeting of the Committee charged with the important matter of increasing the food production in Lewis that a large number of applications had been received from cottars and others in the North Tolsta district for plots for growing potatoes. It was further stated that the tenant of the farm there is willing to give land for the purpose, and Mr. James Thomson, Tong, was deputed to make the necessary arrangements.


Mr. Colin MacDonald, representing the Board of Agriculture, visited this district for the purpose of making arrangements in connection with the granting of allotments of land to applicants who wish to acquire additional plots for potato planting, with a view to the increased production of food for the forthcoming year. 
After seeing the new tenant of the farm at North Tolsta, who was quite agreeable to a part of his farm being utilised for this patriotic purpose, Mr. MacDonald visited the machair there, which he considers very suitable for the cultivation of potatoes.

A meeting was held in the School, with the result that Mr. Cameron, who takes a keen interest in this Scheme, and in everything else pertaining to the welfare of the crofters and cottars, forwarded to the Chairman of the Lewis Executive Committee the names of forty applicants. The Board of Agriculture is to fence the area under cultivation. In all likelihood a good number of those who have not yet applied will send in their names for plots. It is open to either crofters or squatters to make application under the Scheme.



Influenza is very prevalent in this district for the past two weeks. A large number of young children are laid up, and there are also many cases even amongst the grown-up people.


Rev. Mr. MacIntyre, Stornoway, preached in the Free Presbyterian Church last Sunday, both morning and evening. There were large congregations.


We regret to announce the death of Mr. Murdo MacIver, 18 North Tolsta. The deceased who was 74 years of age, had been suffering from asthma for several years. Although it was known throughout the district that he was ill for the past few weeks, no one expected that he was so near the end. 
The "Bogie" as he was generally known, followed a seafaring life from boyhood.

He was always a very successful fisherman, and it was only a few years ago that he said farewell to the career he loved so well. His doughty deeds on the sea were known throughout the island, and many a stormy day he persuaded his crew to proceed to sea while other boats were putting back to harbour. He was often heard to declare that he was never nervous at sea so long as he felt something hard under his feet. No one ever heard him complain of either cold or wet.

It was always a marvel how he could manage to cook in these open boats, even in the most stormy weather. Storm or sunshine, if Murdo was the cook, one could always rely on getting one's meals well prepared. On Saturday he was buried in the Tolsta cemetary, within a few yards of the sea. Murdo will be much missed in the district and much sympathy goes out to his widow, his three daughters, and his only son, who is a R.N.R., and not once at home since he went to the fishing in the summer of 1914.


The following are home on a short leave this week - Donald MacKenzie, R.N.R., 73 North Tolsta; Pte. P.A. MacDonald, A & S Highlanders, Tolsta Farm; and Murdo MacLeod, R.N.R., 34 North Tolsta. We are very pleased to see that the last named has obtained a mate's ticket and we congratulate him. Mr. MacKenzie is a seaman gunner on a large merchantman and formerly had been serving in the Pacific. Pte. MacDonald is returning at once to France, where he had been gassed more than a year ago, when he was only 17 years of age.



The haddock and herring fishing has been practically at a standstill for the past three weeks. The weather has been somewhat unsettled, and the only occasion during that period on which the boats ventured to sea the results were rather disappointing. ROLL OF HONOUR
The following names are to be added to those already published for this district:- Mr. Donald MacKay, R.N.R., 16 North Tolsta and Mr. Alexander Morrison, R.N.R., 15 North Tolsta. This district has sent 202 men to the help of King and Country. An excellent record.


It is also worthy of note that Mr. J. Campbell, R.N.R.,(54), has six brothers-in-law as well as six brothers on active service, and that eleven out of the twelve had enlisted prior to the Derby Scheme. We think this record would be hard to beat. INFLENZA
As reported in our last issue, this epidemic is very prevalent in the district. The inclemency of the weather is largely accountable for the severity of the trouble.

It is said that on account of this illness the school attendance for the past two weeks has been the lowest recorded for several years. Nurse Stewart is kept going night and day.


The following seamen are at present home on leave:- Mr. Andrew MacIver, R.N.R.,(26); Mr. Donald Campbell, R.N.R.,(54); Mr. John Campbell, R.N.R.,(54), and Mr. William MacLeod, R.N.R.,(34). The last named has not been keeping well for some time, but we are pleased to see that his health is now much improved. He was one of the many Lewismen who travelled from afar at the outbreak of hostilities. He came at his own expense from Alaska in the autumn of 1914.



Kenneth Campbell, R.N.R., 30 North Tolsta, and Murdo Graham, R.N.R., 39 North Tolsta, are now at home for a few days. The former was at the time of the Battle of Jutland on board H.M.S. "Galatea", which fired the first shot in the battle. The latter saw much active service at the beginning of the war on H.M.S. "Nubian", but he had left that ship before she was mined last year. His only brother was killed in France in July, 1915. 


The half-yearly Communion was dispensed in the Free Presbyterian Church last Sabbath. Rev. Mr. MacIntyre was assisted by Rev. Mr. MacRae, Portree. All the services were well attended with a good sprinkling of strangers, particularly from the Ness district. 
In spite of the severity of the weather a large number of Ness people crossed the moor on Thursday and Friday of last week to attend these services. 
In the local Free Church Rev. R. MacLeod, Garrabost, was the preacher on Thursday, and Rev. R. MacKenzie, the pastor of the congregation, preached on Sabbath evening. For the remainder of the week the Free Church people were attending the services at Back. Crowds of the people from Ness passed through this district last Friday on their way to Back. 



Corpl. J. MacKenzie, Seaforths, 73 North Tolsta, who was a student of Divinity before enlisting, preached in the Free Presbyterian Church last Sabbath, both morning and evening.


The following men are home this week:- Pte. Alexander MacLeod, Seaforths, 74 North Tolsta; Corpl. J. MacKenzie, Seaforths, 73 North Tolsta and Norman MacKay, R.N.R., 42 North Tolsta. The first named was so badly wounded last July that he has been in hospital ever since then. He was however much improved. He had also been very severely gassed in April, 1915.


Mr. Reid, of the Board of Agriculture, visited this district last week and measured out plots to be granted to the people of the township. On Saturday, Mr. James Thomson, Tong, accompanied by Mr. Cameron, met the applicants in the school and after explaining the Scheme, they allotted between forty and fifty plots to the people.


Sergt. Duncan MacKay, Gordons, 42 North Tolsta, was wounded one dark night four weeks ago by falling into a cellar while he was trying to gather his men, whose billets were being heavily shelled by the enemy. About a fortnight ago his father received a free pass for the purpose of going to see him. It was feared that his case was very serious. We are now pleased to announce that has so well recovered that he has been removed to a convalescent home. Sergt. MacKay was also very badly wounded in September, 1915. Indeed his father was then notified of his death.


We regret to record the death of Miss Mary MacKay, 42 North Tolsta. The deceased who was 77 years of age, was, on Tuesday of last week found dead in her house, where she had been living alone for the past twenty years. Mary, who was an outstanding character in her way, will be much missed by old and young; for her pawky sayings and her reminiscent stories of the illustrious past were such that we now feel none of us can discharge her role of "the sad historian of the pensive plain".


Alexander Murray, 12 years of age, son of Mr. Allan Murray, R.N.R., 4 North Tolsta, met with a serious accident on Thursday of last week. The previous evening he noticed one of his father's sheep on a ledge on the face of one of the precipitous cliffs on the south side of the Tolsta Ard. His mother and brother tried to dissuade him from going to rescue the sheep, but in the early morning he left home unawares and proceeded to the rocks. 
He scaled the cliff from below until he reached the ledge, but the sheep tried to clear away, with the result that she brought the boy with her down the face of the rock - a distance of fully 180 feet.
The sheep was killed instantaneously, and evidently the boy was lying unconscious at the foot of the rock for some time.

When he regained consciousness he noticed that the tide was coming in, and divesting himself of his boots and some garments he attempted to climb the rock. 
His mother had been searching for him but failed to trace him. His brother then went off and found him, exhausted and covered with blood, on the top of the cliff. "Alick," said he, pointing to the foot of the cliff, "the sheep is dead and all my bones are broken." 
After he was carried home he was attended by Dr. MacKenzie, Stornoway. It was found that no bones were broken, but there are serious internal injuries. It seems a miracle that he was not killed outright. The pluck of the boy is seen in his having when he was so much bruised and batterred climbed the cliff, a distance of over one hundred feet. We are pleased to say at the time of writing he is improving.



The weather has been very stormy for the past 5 weeks. Fishing was practically at a standstill. Last Saturday, however, one of the boats ventured to sea and had a shot of about 300 haddocks as well as a few cod.


Seamen home on leave at present:- Murdo MacLeod,(76); John Campbell (Jnr.), (54); Murdo MacIver,(26); Murdo Smith,(24); Alex MacIver,(80); John MacIver,(69); John MacDonald,(23); Allan Murray,(4) and Alex Smith,(56). This is the first time that the two last named have been at home sine the Autumn of 1914. Several men are expected home this week, to help with the spring work.


There has been practically no work done on the crofts so far. But "Coinneach Sheorais" and two or three of the older men, who realise the seriousness of the times, have been busily engaged for the past few days delving their new plots on the Tolsta Farm. It is to be hoped the Board of Agriculture will have the fencing material for the plots on the ground as early as possible. This would materially encourage the people to proceed with the work without delay.



The name of Donald MacDonald, 23 North Tolsta, has to be added to those already published for this district. Donald who is 50, enlisted some time ago in the Royal Engineers.


Mr. Murdo Nicolson, Hill Street, North Tolsta, received from Perth on Thursday of last week a telegram stating that his son, Pte. John Nicolson, Gordons, has been dangerously wounded in the chest. This is the second time Pte. Nicolson has been wounded. 
On the same day, Mr. John MacDonald, 9 North Tolsta, received a telegram intimating that his son, Pte. Murdo MacDonald, Seaforths, has been dangerously wounded in the right thigh. This is the second time that Pte. MacDonald has been wounded. 
The former went to France in December, 1915, and the latter in the Autumn of 1914 . It is to be sincerely hoped that both of them will recover from their severe wounds. Both were great favourites in the village.


We regret to announce that Widow J. Martin, 76 North Tolsta, has received a telegram informing her that her son-in-law, Sergt. Ian MacLeod, Royal Highlanders, has died of wounds in a casualty cleaning station in France. 
Sergt. MacLeod had seen much active fighting in the South African War and being an Army Reservist, he crossed over to France with the original Expeditionary Force in 1914. He was wounded in the famous retreat from Mons.

After returning to this country, he was for several months a clerk in the Paymaster's office at Perth. Thereafter, he again went to France, where he was wounded the second time. Subsequently, he acted for some time as a Sergt. Major at Nigg. Several months ago he returned for the third time to France. The deceased was a native of Harris, but he was well known and respected here.


Angus Campbell, R.N.R.,(54); Pte. Donald Smith, Seaforths,(56); Duncan MacLean, R.N.R.,(51); Donald Nicolson, R.N.R.,(9); Donald MacMillan, R.N.R.,(Glen); John MacIver, R.N.R.,(43); Murdo MacIver,R.N.R.,(38); Murdo Murray, R.N.R.,(49); Donald Murray, R.N.R.,(22); Murdo Murray, R.N.R.,(45); Evander Murray, R.N.R.,(45); John Murray, R.N.R.,(52); Pte. J. Murray, Seaforths,(71) and Pte. Murdo Murray, Seaforths,(49). Most of these men are at home for the purpose of helping with the spring work.



Pte. John Nicolson, Gordons, Hill Street, has died from chest wounds. The deceased was 20 years of age and was mobilised at the beginning of the war. But as he was underage, he was retained in Aberdeen until December, 1915, when, in his intense eagerness to get to the Front, he managed somehow, to get into a draft leaving for France. Much sympathy goes out to his family.


Mr. Angus MacLeod, Missionary, Waternish, Skye, preached in the Free Church here the last two Sabbaths. Mr. Angus MacKay, local Missionary, has been in indifferent health for the past two weeks.


We are pleased to announce that Lieut. Murdo MacIver, who was severely wounded some weeks ago, is getting on satisfactorily. At the time he received his wounds he was serving on H.M.S.______. Before then he had been serving on a submarine, or, as he himself said when writing some time ago to his cousin, Mrs. Cameron - "I am not allowed to tell you in what part of the world I am serving; suffice to say that I am at present under the briny." He enlisted into the Navy twenty-five years ago, and he was in 1907, one of the four champion gunners of the Mediterranean Squadron.


Donald Graham, R.N.R.,(39); John MacInnes, R.N.R.,(Hill Street); Donald Murray, R.N.R.,(69); Roderick MacIver, R.N.R.,(10); Roderick MacDonald, R.N.R.,(23); Murdo MacDonald, R.N.R.,(1); Murdo Murray, R.N.R.,(61); Donald Campbell, R.N.R.,(54); Angus MacKenzie, R.N.R.,(48); Hector MacMillan, R.N.R.,(Glen); Alick MacMillan, R.N.R.,(Glen); J. MacDonald, R.N.R.,(1); Pte. R. MacKay, Seaforths,(66) and Pte. W. Gunn, Seaforths, (70).


Pte. Donald MacLeod, Seaforths, son of Mr. Norman MacLeod, 53 North Tolsta, is wounded and is lying in hospital at Chatham. He was mobilised at the beginning of the war, and crossed to France, early in 1915, when only 16.



Pte. Murdo MacDonald, 9 North Tolsta, has died of wounds. He was 21 years of age. He was mobilised at the beginning of the war and went to France in the Autumn of 1914. He was severely wounded in November, 1915 and was in hospital until May, 1916. He went to France again shortly afterwards. "Murchadh Iain Bhig" as he was known locally, was a great favourite of the township and will be much missed by old and young. The only brother of the deceased is interned in Holland.


Angus Campbell, R.N.R., 54 North Tolsta, married Mary MacIver, daughter of Mr. Norman MacIver, 32 North Tolsta, on April 27th. On the same day, Angus MacKay, R.N.D., son of Mr. Angus MacKay, F.C. Missionary, North Tolsta, was married to Christina MacKenzie, 48 North Tolsta. Rev. R. MacKenzie, Back, officiated at both marriages. The first named bridegroom is a son of Mrs. Campbell, North Tolsta, whose seven sons were called up at the beginning of the war.


Pte. W. MacDonald, Seaforths,(48); Pte. E. MacIver, Seaforths,(43); Pte. A. MacLeod, Seaforths,(20); Pte. A. MacMillan, Seaforths, Glen Tolsta; J. MacIver, R.N.R.,(41); D. Murray, R.N.R.,(27) and D. MacIver, R.N.R.,(28). A large number of the men from this district have this year been granted spring-work leave. Others are expected to get home during May. Indeed this township has been so much depleted of men that the spring work will be very far behind this year. 



The people in this district are beginning to complain bitterly of the unreasonable delay in the repairing of the meal mill at Gress. It was announced several weeks ago that the money to put this mill into proper working order had been granted. It is estimated that there is sufficient grain in this township itself to produce at least 200 bolls of meal.


One of the local boats shot the big lines one day last week and had a fair haul of cod, as well as some ling, halibut and skate. In the lot there was one large skate which would have weighed between 5 and 6 cwts. There was a great demand for the fish and it was all sold locally.


Alexander MacLennan, R.N.R.,(35); Murdo MacLeod, skipper, R.N.R.,(34); Torquil Campbell, R.N.R.,(34); Kenneth MacKay, R.N.R.,(30); John Murray, R.N.R.,(40) and Malcolm MacLeod, R.N.R.,(58). 
The first named seaman took part in the Jutland Battle, which culminated in the sinking of the "Blucher" and the last named has been having some thrilling experiences as a gunner on one of the large merchantmen.



Last Sabbath in the Free Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Neil MacIntyre, Stornoway, preached in the forenoon and in the evening. Rev. Roderick MacKenzie, Back, preached in the evening in the Free Church.


Home for spring-work leave - George Murray, R.N.R.,(45); Angus MacIver, R.N.R.,(35); Angus Nicolson, R.N.R.,(9) and John Campbell, R.N.R., Moss Cottage.


For the past three weeks the plot-holders have been busily engaged on their new allotments on the Tolsta Farm. Already about 120 bags of potatoes have been planted there as well as many bushels of oats sown. But so far there has been no definite word as to when the fencing material is to be forthcoming. We hope that the authorities concerned will see to it without delay.



Roderick MacIver, R.N.R., 25 North Tolsta, younger son of Mr. John MacIver, was killed on 8th May, when H.M.S. ________ struck a mine and sank. The deceased who was 23 years of age was mobilised at the beginning of the war. He was always so gentle and winning and was greatly loved by all and that, combined with his keen sense of humour, his invincible cheerfulness and his never-failing generosity, makes his loss deeply felt in the township.



Hector MacKay, R.N.R.,(42); Kenneth MacIver, R.N.R.,(13): William MacLeod, R.N.R.,(6) and Angus MacMillan, R.N.R., Glen Tolsta.


Sergt. Major John MacIver, Seaforths, 26 North Tolsta and Pte. Kenneth Urquhart, Seaforths, 17 North Tolsta, are at present lying in hospital in France. We understand neither case is serious.


Last week some children from the north end of the village, after they had got home from school, went out to Glenmore to herd cattle, and as is customary with "children just let loose from school", they were somewhat playful. 
One boy, Murdo MacaKenzie, 48 North Tolsta, hid another boy's staff in a deep pool of water, closely overhung with heather.

After a while he returned for the stick and while trying to reach it he overbalanced and fell headlong into the pool. When his playmates missed him they became anxious and at once began to search for him. 
After a while one of the boys noticed the little fellow's hand faintly moving amongst the overhanging heather. When they got him to the brink of the pool he was very much exhausted. He had swallowed a great quantity of the muddy waters of the pool before he was rescued.

However, after he had been well rubbed by his companions, he was able to walk home with them and although he was confined to bed for a week, he was soon able to move about.



Pte. Alexander MacLeod, Seaforths, 56 North Tolsta, was killed on 3rd June, aged 28 years. Prior to enlisting in July, 1915, he had been a policeman in Edinburgh. When he heard his brother Angus had been killed in action, he wrote home to his mother that he was going to enlist in his late brother's regiment "to fill the gap." He was a typical soldier - strong, fearless and manly.


For the past three weeks several boats have been fishing out of this village. At first, the results were rather disappointing, but during last week there were heavier shots. Some of the older men have got their small boats in readiness for the summer fishing.


The following men were home on leave last week:- Alexander Murray, R.N.R.,(27): Angus MacIver, R.N.R.,(33); Donald MacKay, R.N.R.,(16) and Murdo Murray, R.N.R.,(50). 



Included were:- Donald Nicolson, stroke oarsman, North Tolsta; Murdo MacDonald, 1 North Tolsta and Donald MacLeod, 45 North Tolsta. The rowing contest for the Admiral's Cup took place in Autumn, 1916. The winning crew contained nine Lewismen. For the four years previous to that, the Cup had been annually won by the crew of H.M.S. __________. In all the practising contests the R.N.R.'s of H.M.S. "Empress of India, came out first as she did in the final contest. So well was their prowess known throughout the Fleet that several of the other crews declared there was no use in their taking part in the final if these big Highland fellows were to compete.

Eight cutters prepared for the fray. There was a stiff breeze blowing, a head wind and a choppy sea. The distance to be covered was about three miles. The crew that had formerly won the Cup on several occasions kept a good lead for the first two miles. 
The Commander of one of the Dreadnoughts, who had formerly commanded the "Emperor of India", kept calling out through a megaphone, "Come on you Highlanders of the old ship!"

At length, however, the coxswain, from Montrose, who had been attempting to learn Gaelic from his friends on board ship, called out, "Na Gaidheil an guaillibh a cheile, remember you are Highlanders! Now my lads, come on, let us show them all what we can do!" 
With a powerful spurt the Highlanders nobly responded to the hint.

The boat penetrated through the surging billows and dashed past the other boats so swiftly that, "you actually thought that the other boats had dropped anchor."
 Once they got the lead nothing could deprive them of it. They retained their position all along, with the result that they finished four lengths ahead of the next boat. It was declared on all hands by the spectators that undoubtedly the best crew won the prize. As the winners were returning to their ship the officers mustered the crew on deck and the victors stepped aboard amidst the deafening cheers of their shipmates. The Admiral, who congratulated them, said that the Highlands had reason to be proud of them. 



Mrs. MacLeod, widow of the late Corporal Alexander MacLeod, Seaforths, of 56 North Tolsta, has received the following letter from one of the non-commissioned officers of her husband's battalion:- "It is with a very sad heart I am writing this letter to you. Doubtless you will have heard by this time about your husband - dear old Sandy. He was one of the best 'pals' I ever had and a Seaforth to the last. He charged a German machine-gun single-handed and while doing so, he was hit on the head. I miss him as a dear 'pal', but how much must you miss him! I know I cannot comfort you much, but as an old pal of his, both in the Police and in the Army, I offer you my deepest sympathy...... .and I assure you he lives in the hearts of his old comrades."


The local boats fishing with the small lines had some good shots on several occasions last week.


Rev. R. MacKenzie, Back, preached in the Free Church, on the Sabbath evening. Mr. Alexander MacKenzie, Stornoway, preached in the Free Presbyterian Church, for morning and evening services.


When Mr. Alexander Murray, R.N.R., 27 North Tolsta, arrived home for leave last week, he found his youngest son laid up with diphtheria. We regret to announce that this boy has now died. Murdo was a bright and winsome wee chap, full of life and frolic. Much sympathy is extended to the family in their bereavement. Mr. and Mrs. Murray have each lost a brother in the war.


The following are at present home on leave:- John Campbell, R.N.R.,(54); Murdo Murray, R.N.R.,(61); Angus Campbell, R.N.R.,(62); Roderick MacLeod, A & S Highlanders,(20) and Torquil Campbell,R.N.R.,(34). The last named was a
gunner on a merchantman which has been recently sunk through striking a mine. Torquil was severely wounded in the forehead, but after being in hospital for about a fortnight he has now well recovered from the effects of his wounds.


Although the weather has been somewhat unfavourable of late, the local boats have been going to sea regularly during the past week. They are getting heavy hauls and there is a steady improvement in the size and quality of the fish brought ashore these last few days.



Mr. W. MacLeod, leading seaman, R.N.R., 34 North Tolsta, has been awarded a medal for long service and good conduct. 
He enlisted in the Seaforth Militia thirty years ago and five years afterwards he enlisted in the Royal Naval Reserve. He went to Canada in 1912 and was in excellent employment at Fairbanks in Northern Alaska, at the time the war broke out. 
He reported himself at once, although he was then fifty years of age. He left his employment and travelled home at his own expense, a distance of 9000 miles, taking more than five weeks on the journey. He reported at Stornoway as soon as he arrived and in December, 1914, he was called up for active service. One stormy night, while on patrol duty in the Irish Sea, he was badly injured and sent home for a well-earned rest.



Last week the plotholders on the North Tolsta Farm were busy fencing their plots, but, unfortunately, they did not manage to secure in Stornoway enough fencing material to go round all the plots. It was stated that the Board of Agriculture was to fence the new area under cultivation and the accredited representatives of that Board definately and repeatedly told the plot-holders that this was to be done. But the Board now say they never promised the fencing, they even refuse to provide the wire-netting, after the people themselves had undertaken to provide the posts for the fence. However the last word has not been said on this topic.


Boats fishing with the small lines are getting excellent hauls for the past week. Some days five or six small boats are out, but supply is not equal to


Hector MacKay, R.N.R.,(42); Murdo MacDonald, R.N.R.,(16); Murdo MacIver, R.N.R.,(38) and Corpl. R. MacIver, R.F.A.,(25). The last named has been at the Front since the beginning of last January and although he was all along in the hottest part of the firing line, he has so far escaped without a scratch.



The fishing was very successful during last week. The supply was fully equal to demand. One of the boats had more than 2000 fish one day recently.


Mr. Angus MacKinnon, missionary, preached in the Free Presbyterian Church morning and evening on Sunday. He also preached on Monday morning before leaving the district.


Sergt. Duncan MacKay, Gordons,(42); Murdo MacIver, R.N.R.,(25) and Roderick MacKay, R.N.R.,(66). The first named was on several occasions severely wounded in France and he has now just come out of hospital.


The Gress Meal Mill is now repaired and has been kept busily working for the past two or three weeks. The people are truly grateful for the opportunity of being once again able to have their grain milled so near at hand. Last year they had to go to Garrabost before they could get their grain made into meal.


Mr. Allan Cameron, son of Mr. Donald Cameron, merchant, North Tolsta and Mr. Donald MacDonald, son of Mr. Ewan MacDonald, North Tolsta Farm, have joined the Forces. Allan has made arrangements to enter the Mercantile Marine Services and has joined the Royal Naval Reserve and Donald has for two years been undergoing training as a wireless operator and has joined in Edinburgh.



Mr. John Duff, the Organising Secretary of the West Coast Mission, visited this district last week. The people of the township are deeply indebted to Mr. Duff, for it was mainly on account of his exertions that the West Coast Mission provided Tolsta with a nurse five years ago. It is worthy of note that Nurse Stewart has recently been thanked by the authorities for her efficient service in connection with Public Health Affairs.


Miss Christina MacLeod entered upon her duties as infant mistress in the Public School.


Small boats continue to meet with success. One night one of the boats tried the nets and she got four baskets of herring of an excellent quality. HOME ON LEAVE
Donald MacLeod, R.N.R.,(56); and Evander MacIver,(11), are home on leave. The latter has been granted a sick leave for a few months duration. There are also at home a number of the young women who have been doing munition work in the South.



Rev. R. MacKenzie, Back, preached in the Free Church on Sunday evening.


Small-line fishing has not been too successful of late. Dog-fish has been rather troublesome, destroying lines as well as fish. However were it not that the district is so much depleted of men, the small-line fishing this year would have been a record one.


Murdo MacLeod, R.N.R.,(34); Murdo Smith, R.N.R.,(65); John Nicolson, R.N.R.,(Hill Street); Angus MacLeod, R.N.R.,(6) and Pte. Donald MacLeod, Seaforths,(53). The first named is now the skipper of a mine-sweeper and the last named has just come out of hospital, where he had been undergoing treatment. It is worthy of note that this young soldier, who is barely 19 years of age, went to the Front early in 1915 and was there all the time until he was wounded last Spring.


One fine evening a few weeks ago, somewhere in France, an English officer, after taking part in one of the fiercest battles of the war, came up to a North Tolsta soldier and calmly said, "were you ever at Garry?" Needless to say, the Lewisman was agreeably surprised to hear his favourite haunts being mentioned on the battlefield. The officer on being answered in the affirmative, spoke in glowing terms of the beauties of this romantic place and ended up by saying, that he thought he could forget even the horror of war, if he could take the wings of an eagle and fly there and be at rest.

Let us hope that both the officer and the soldier will be spared to spend a happy evening yet in the vicinity of "Loch na Cartach", where one finds in such sweet harmony the beauties of moor, loch, machair and sea.



The Lewismen in Groningen, Holland, are utilising their spare time to the best advantage. A large number of them took up the study of Navigation some time ago and Mr. John MacIver, 62 North Tolsta, has passed the Board of Trade examination for second mate on foreign-going steamships. Mr. John MacRitchie,(40), Mr. Donald Campbell,(13), Mr. J. MacDonald,(1), have passed for second hands. Messrs. J. MacIver and D. Campbell, have also passed in special signalling.


Donald Campbell, 54 North Tolsta, aged 33 years, was killed when H.M.S. "Olway" sank. He had been mobilised at the beginning of the war. The deceased had been in indifferent health for two or three years before the war. But he reported along with his six brothers, all of whom were in the Royal Naval Reserve. Much sympathy is extended to his family.


On Monday, a small local fishing boat fishing off the village had five crans of excellent herring.


The local school was closed for holidays on Friday of last week and is to re-open on Monday, 3rd September. LEAVE MEN
Angus MacKenzie, R.N.R.,(48); John Campbell, R.N.R.,(54) and Murdo Murray, R.N.R.,(60). All these are survivors from the ill-fated "Olway".



A large amount of pitch has been washed ashore in this district during the past fortnight and last week two casks of rum and a large keg of lard were found on Tolsta Sands. The Custom House officials were back and fore for several days. One of the casks of rum was so heavy that the contents had to be transferred to three smaller casks before they could be carted to Stornoway. The lard was sold to Mr. Donald MacLeod, a local merchant.


Donald MacIver, R.N.R., 17 North Tolsta, has drowned in the Mediterranean.
The deceased was about 50 years of age and before the war was employed as a fireman on drifters fishing out of Peterhead. WOUNDED
Pte. Peter A. MacDonald, A & S Highlanders, North Tolsta Farm and Pte. John MacLeod, Gordons, 74 North Tolsta, have recently been wounded, the former in the arm and the latter in the leg. Pte. MacDonald, who enlisted before he was 17 years of age, was gassed in France two years ago and Pte. MacLeod, who crossed to Belgium in October, 1914, has now been wounded for the third time.



A block of rubber, 27 inches long and weighing about 1½ cwts., was found last week amongst the rubbish coming ashore on Tolsta sands. The find was forwarded to the Receiver of Wreck.


The fishing has been practically at a standstill for the past three weeks. Bait is difficult to procure, no sand eels having been obtained since the pitchy stuff began to cover the sands.
The cattle are all now home from the shieling and the people are finishing off the carting of the winter fuel.
The crops are in excellent condition and it is likely that the barley will be ready for reaping at the end of this month. The potato crop has so far showed no signs of the blight and the plots on the North Tolsta Farm give promise of yielding an abundant supply of tubers. The hay however, will this year be much inferior to last year's crop.



Several young women from this district left for the South last week to start at munition work. This township has sent out a large number of munition workers. Mr. MacDonald, 61 North Tolsta, has four of his daughters employed in munition factories.


The cattle were sent to the Ard grazings last week and the boys, while there herding spent the time in playing shinty. At times there are very lively contests, especially when a team of the South-enders meets a team of North-enders.



Hector MacMillan, R.N.R., 4 Glen Tolsta, was wounded during an air raid recently on the Chatham Barracks. His wounds although somewhat severe, are not dangerous. Hector, with four other men from this small hamlet, enlisted in 1914, shortly after the outbreak of hostilities. LEAVE
Home on leave: Murdo MacIver, R.N.R.,(25); Roderick MacKay,R.N.R.,(66);Sgt. Duncan MacKay, Gordons (42); and Cpl. Alexander MacIver, Australians,(25),
Sgt.MacKay,who had twice been severely wounded has been granted a month's leave. Cpl.MacIver has been at the front for nearly a year, but has so far escaped scathless.


Murdo Murray, younger son of Mr. John Murray, 27 North Tolsta, was drowned while bathing on the Tolsta Sands last week. A number of youths who were herding cattle in Ard of Tolsta, resolved to go bathing at the foot of the high cliffs at the south end of the Tolsta Sands. 
Murdo did not accompany them at first and it was only when they were entering the sea, that they noticed him hurriedly descending the rocks. They were all swimming some distance from the shore, when one of them, on looking towards the land, saw Murdo in difficulties and raised the alarm.

Those who were near enough to hear him made for the land and it was after five minutes that the first of them reached the spot at which Murdo was seen to disappear. 
One of them who was a better swimmer than the rest, managed once or twice to get hold of the drowning boy, but failed to effect a rescue. At the time there was a strong current with heavy seas and the backwash of the receding breakers was so strong that it was with difficulty some of the boys managed to secure a footing; two or three of them were were so much exhausted that they had to appeal for help. 
Murdo could not swim and it is believed he lost his balance in the midst of a "cliath" of breakers. In the evening the two boats dragging for the remains found the body some distance from the land.



On Thursday of last week, at 34 North Tolsta, Mr. Alexander MacIver, 14 North Tolsta, was married to Mary MacLeod, youngest daughter of Mr. Donald MacLeod 34 North Tolsta. The officiating clergyman was Rev. N. MacIntyre, Stornoway. This was the fifth marriage in the district since last Christmas. Good for Tolsta!



Miss Flora C. MacLeod, assistant mistress in this school during the past three years, has been offered an assistantship in the Nicolson Institute, but we are pleased to learn that Miss MacLeod has decided to stay in the Tolsta School for a further period.


Although the weather of late has been unsuitable for harvest work, still more of the people have their barley gathered into the barnyards and by the end of this week many of them will have the oats also gathered in. But on account of scarcity of labour some famillies are behind with their work and it is to be hoped more men will yet be granted harvest leave.



On Tuesday of last week, while Mr. John Campbell, 19 North Tolsta, was attending sheep in the neighbourhood of Glen-Tolsta, he stumbled and got his leg severely fractured. He was at the time accompanied by his son, who ran home for help. Most of the men turned out at once and the injured man was carried home on improvised stretchers. He was removed to the Lewis 
Hospital, where he is getting on very well.



On Tuesday, of last week, at 31 North Tolsta, Mr. Evander Murray, R.N.R., 45 North Tolsta, was married to Miss Margaret Morrison, eldest daughter of
Mr. John Morrison, 31 North Tolsta. Rev. Roderick MacKenzie, Back, was the officiating clergyman.


At a Meeting of the Lewis District Committee a letter was read from the West Coast Mission intimating their willingness to allow their nurse at North Tolsta 6to come under the Medical Services Board's scheme for District Nusing in Lewis and nominating Mr. Duncan MacDonald, headmaster, Tolsta, to represent the Mission on the District Committee.



The weather has been very boisterous here lately and owing to the fact that most of the township is about 300 feet above sea level, we had more snow lying on the ground here than in the neighbouring districts. At the time of writing the half of the potato crop is still in the ground and in some level places the plots are sodden in water. So far the potatoes lifted, have been of an excellent quality and there has been practically no trace of disease. The plots planted on the Tolsta Farm have yielded splendid returns. In various cases they produced at the rate of ten tons per acre.



On Thursday of last week, at 71 Keith Street, Stornoway, Mr. Louis MacLeod, late Seaforth Highlanders, was married to Miss Mary Finlayson, daughter of the late Alexander Finlayson, 10 North Tolsta. The officiating clergyman was the Rev. Roderick MacKenzie, Back. On the same day, at the Manse, Knock, James Crockett, skipper, R.N.R., Bayhead, Stornoway, was married to Miss Margaret MacLeod, daughter of Mr. John MacLeod, 20 North Tolsta. Rev. Angus MacLeod was the officiating clergyman.



Miss F. C. MacLeod, who has been assistant mistress in the local school for more than three years, has been appointed to the staff of the Auchtermuchty Public School, Fife.


A number of Tolsta young women have recently left for the South to begin munition work. Altogether, two dozen have left this township and many of these have been away more than two years.



Two local boats tried the small line fishing twice last week and their hauls were fairly satisfactory. There are indications that haddock are somewhat plentiful on the coast, but at present the dog-fish is rather troublesome. It has been reported that some trawlers were last week operating off the Tolsta Sands.


The potato crop has now been lifted and it is now considered to be a record one. Coinneach Sheorais and several of the other plotholders on North Tolsta Farm have had excellent results. One of the local merchants, who had a piece of his park planted in potatoes, had a record crop. This particular plot was planted in drills well over two feet apart, while the plants were about a foot apart in the drills. Many of the crofters also did wonderfully well. Indeed, in various cases plots have yielded results which would compare favourably with the best obtained in Easter Ross.



Owing to an outbreak of scarlet fever in the district, Dr. Murray Medical
Officer of Health, has advised the closing of the school for a period of three weeks.


The annual collections were made recently in the two local churches and as usual, the people have liberally contributed. Mr. John Campbell, 19 North Tolsta, who had been undergoing treatment for a fractured leg in the Lewis Hospital, speaks highly of the attention and kindness of the medical and nursing staff during his six weeks stay.


Miss Flora C. MacLeod, who has been on the staff of the Tolsta Public School for the past three and a half years, was, on the occasion of her leaving the district to take up her duties in Auchtermuchty Public School, presented with a silver-backed dressing set - brush, comb and mirror - inscribed as follows - "Presented to Miss Flora C. MacLeod, by the pupils and staff of Tolsta P. School, 1917." Mr. D. MacDonald, who presided, spoke highly of Miss MacLeod's work in the school and said the people of the district were very sorry losing such a capable teacher. The proceedings terminated with "Auld Lang Syne."



We are pleased to hear that Sergt. Alexander MacIver, Australians, 30 North Tolsta, has been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry on the battlefield, or as he himself so aptly puts it, "for giving too much cheek to the Huns." 
Alick went to Australia ten years ago and was in business in Queensland when he enlisted at the beginning of 1916. He was home for a short visit last February and shortly afterwards he went to France.



Two of the local boats went out with haddock lines last Friday night. One of the boats got the lines broken after having hauled three of them, but on these they had 400 haddock. On the following morning, when they managed to haul the rest of the lines they found that the fish on them had been eaten up by dogfish.