District News 1919

Tolsta District News 1919 as reported in the Stornoway Gazette



Corpl. John MacLeod, 20 North Tolsta, has been awarded the Croix de Guerre for exceptional bravery on the battlefield last Autumn. He had already been awarded the Military Medal.


At Stornoway, on Thursday, 26th December, Mr. Torquil MacIver, a discharged soldier, 4 North Tolsta, was married to Miss Mary MacIver, second daughter of Angus MacIver, R.N.R., 17 North Tolsta. Rev. Neil MacIntyre, Stornoway, officiated. Saoghal fada agus sonus suamhnach dhaoibh. This has been the sixth Tolsta couple to marry during the past three months and we understand there are more to follow.



His Lordship visited the district last Saturday and after calling on the motherless children of the late John MacDonald, 1 North Tolsta, who was lost in the Iolaire disaster, he met some of the local people who had applied for new holdings.


Since we have sent in our last report the remains of three of our local men have been recovered and buried in the local Cemetary - Donald MacLeod and Malcolm MacLeod, sons of Malcolm MacLeod, 58 North Tolsta and Evander Murray, 45 North Tolsta. As we were burying these at night, verses from "The Burial Of Sir John Moore", kept recurring to our memories with strange persistency. The bodies of Donald Campbell, No. 44 and of John MacIver, No. 69, have not yet been recovered.


The teachers and pupils of the school have collected £2 2s for the Institute for the Blind, Inverness. This sum is being forwarded to the local agent at Stornoway.


A Cinematographer visited this district last week to take photographs of the survivors and others. He also photographed sections of the township. We understand these photographs are to be exhibited in aid of the Disaster Fund.



Some of the local men have been granted temporary discharges from the Army and Navy. Several others are coming home on short leaves.


Mary MacDonald, 6 years of age, one of the motherless children left by the late John MacDonald, 1 North Tolsta, who lost his life in the "Iolaire" disaster, has died. This child had an attack of diptheria, an illness which has claimed several victims from this district during the past four years.


On the evening of 1st February, a deputation waited upon Mr. and Mrs. MacDonald, Schoolhouse and presented them in name of the villagers with :- A silver tea-service to Mr. and Mrs. MacDonald, a gold brooch to Mrs. MacDonald and a fountain pen to Mr. MacDonald. Mr. William MacLeod, in a neat speech, said the villagers were anxious to show in tangible form their appreciation of Mr. MacDonald's unfailing courtesy and kindness to them during the past four and a half years, when they had to get letters written, or to get Government schedules completed. They always found him most willing and ready to help them and they had great pleasure in giving these presents. Mr. MacDonald suitably replied, on behalf of himself and Mrs. MacDonald and heartily thanked the villagers for their gifts. He said that the little he did for the villagers during the war was very very small in contrast to what the soldiers and sailors had done for the people at home.



On 11th February, at 4 Glen Tolsta, Mr. Donald MacAulay, Breasclete, was married to Miss Catherine MacMillan, daughter of Mr. Donald MacMillan, 4 Glen Tolsta. Rev. Roderick MacKenzie, Back, officiated. On the same date, at 34 Kenneth Street, Stornoway, Mr. Donald Morrison, 8 North Tolsta, was married to Miss Isabella MacIver, daughter of Mr. Norman MacIver, 32 North Tolsta. Rev. Neil MacIntyre officiated at both.


About 60 per cent of our local Naval Reservists have been demobilised. Several of these have started fishing and others are employed in Stornoway. The most of these men are eager to secure small holdings for themselves. The Lewisman's love for and pride in being in possession of a croft in his native island is wonderful and this war has seemingly increased his love for the soil.



A Surveyor has been in the district examining the route for the proposed road to Ness. It is understood locally, that Lord Leverhulme wishes to see this proposed road constructed. It would be a great boon to the demobilised men to get employment so near at hand and further, this road would materially shorten the distance between Ness and Stornoway.


There are several cases of influenza in the district, but with the exception of one or two cases, the illness is of a mild type. It is hoped this epidemic will not spread at such an alarming rate as it did last November.


Among the Tolsta men recently demobilised, we notice Sergt. Murdo MacDonald, Seaforths, 48 North Tolsta. He was awarded the Military Medal last Spring and now we are pleased to see that he has been awarded a bar to his medal.



At 10 Back, on 11th March, Mr. Alexander Graham, 57 North Tolsta, was married to Christina Stewart, 10 Back, daughter of Mr. Donald Stewart. On the same date at 51 North Tolsta, Donald MacLennan, 35 North Tolsta, was married to Mary, daughter of the late Angus Campbell, 51 North Tolsta. Rev. Mr. MacIntyre, Stornoway, officiated at both marriages.


After school on Friday of last week, Mrs. Catherine MacIver, was on the occasion of her recent marriage, met by the staff and pupils and presented with a silver tea and coffee service. Mr. MacDonald, Headmaster, who presided, said Mrs. MacIver had taught in the school for more than seven years as a certificated teacher, besides serving her apprenticeship as a pupil teacher. During that time, she worked with energy and enthusiasm. It was the sincere wish of the pupils and staff that she and her husband, Mr. Roderick MacIver, of the Australian Imperial Force, may have joy, long life and every prosperity in their new home in Australia.



Miss Jane Thomson, Tong, entered upon her duties as assistant teacher in the local school on Monday last. She had been formerly teaching in Lionel School.


Mr. Donald MacLeod, Merchant, Secretary of the Allotment-holders Association, recently received word from Mr. MacKenzie, Portree, to the effect that these plots are to be granted to the local people this year again on the previous terms. Many famillies would avail themselves of this opportunity, but the difficulty of securing fencing material discourages them. The portion of the farm alloted for these plots is excellent for the cultivation of potatoes.


Owing to an outbreak of diptheria in the district, the infant school has been closed by order of the Medical Officer of Health. There have been many outbreaks of this disease in the township since July, 1914 and it is to be hoped that the authorities will now be successful in getting at the source of the trouble. It is quite possible there is a diptheria carrier in the district. Dr. MacKenzie, Stornoway, accompanied by the Sanitary Inspector, visited the district on Tuesday of last week to make investigations. We understand he has suggested to the District Committee to secure the services of a bacteriologist in order that the operative cause be authoritatively ascertained and satisfactorily dealt with.



At 52 North Tolsta, on 1st April, Mr. William MacLeod, 34 North Tolsta, was married to Mary, daughter of Mr. Alexander Graham, 57 North Tolsta. On 3rd
 April, at 45 North Tolsta, Mr. Roderick MacKay, 64 North Tolsta, was married to Margaret, daughter of Mr. John Murray, 45 North Tolsta. Rev. Mr. MacKenzie, Back, officiated at both marriages.


In former years the plot-holders had much difficulty in fencing their allotments on the farm. They could not get anything more substantial than wire-netting, with the result that the sheep and the cattle broke through this fencing. Recently, Dr. Murray, M.P., was approached to use his influence with the Secretary for Scotland and the Board of Agriculture, to supply fencing material for the plots, with the result that the Board is now forwarding half a ton of barbed wire for these allotments. Last year, there were 37 plots cultivated and this year there are applications for other 24 plots, making a total of 61. The greatest drawback now is the difficulty in getting seed potatoes.



At 13 North Tolsta, on 15th April, Mr. John Campbell, jnr., 54 North Tolsta, was married to Jessie, eldest daughter of the late Murdo Campbell, 13 North Tolsta. Rev. Mr. MacKenzie, Back, officiated.


Work on this road was started last week, but so far only a few of the men have made a beginning. Of course people at present are so very busy with the Spring work that they cannot leave the croft. It is to be hoped the road work will soon be in full swing, but most of the men think that the wages offered are not sufficient, in view of the high cost of living.


The crofters and allotment holders are expecting a supply of seed potatoes with the first cargo boat in Stornoway. It is hoped there will not be much delay.
The epidemic of diphtheria has practically died out.
There was not very much interest taken locally in the recent Education Authority Election. Between 25 and 30 per cent of the voters turned out. A Meeting of Electors had been held the evening before the Election. Mr. Cameron, J.P., presided. It was at this Meeting one of the men got so eloquent in speaking in favour of the women candidates that he said - "If you study the history of the world, you will find from the morning of the Lord's resurrection to the present time, that some of the heroines have outshone the greatest and most famous of other heroes."


At a Meeting of the Lewis District Committee, a report was submitted from Mr. Milne, Sanitary Inspector, as to the sanitary condition of the school at North Tolsta, in view of the repeated outbreaks of diphtheria in that district. 
Mr. Milne said, that the school buildings occupied a clean, dry site and the situation, though somewhat exposed, is good.

The condition of the buildings, both internally and externally, is generally satisfactory. The sanitary conveniences provided for the use of the children and also for the Schoolhouse, are of an antiquated and primitive description and in his opinion, unsanitary and unsuited for the requirements of the school. The existing latrine should be abolished and a suitable type substituted, with adequate provision for flushing. 
Probably the roof waters from the school buildings could be collected and conserved for this purpose and this might be supplemented by a small pump, which could be used at any time during dry periods. The sewage should also be treated, to prevent fouling of the surface of the ground, which is more or less frequented by children and others.

The cleanliness of the school was satisfactory, but the prevention of dust during sweeping operations being distributed over desks, seats, school furniture and books was, he feared, too often overlooked. That applied to schools generally throughout the island and he thought it was most desirable, that damp sawdust moistened with some disinfectant should be sprinkled on the floors before sweeping was commenced.
The water supply appears to be fairly adequate and he thought there was hardly any reason for suspicion as to its quality. The common drinking cup at the school was no doubt, a likely means of conveying infection from one child to another, but it was difficult to suggest any alternative, as there is no supply water under pressure.



The upper section of the school was reopened on Monday, after the Spring holidays. The infant department is still kept closed to prevent the spread of diphtheria.


Mr. Murdo C. MacAulay, Secretary of the Lewis Branch of the Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers and Sailors Federation, addressed a crowded Meeting in this district on Tuesday of last week. Several of the local men of "the boys" were enrolled.


Dr. Dewar, of the local Government Board, was in the district recently, making a searching investigation into the cause of the frequent occurrence of diphtheria in this school area. It is earnestly hoped that he will be successful. If he fails to find the source of this trouble during these visits, we understand it is his intention to resume his investigations next month.


Last week the Drifter "Result", on her way to Carloway, landed 14½ tons of seed potatoes ordered by this district. The price for a cwt. bag delivered here was, 14s 2d. The quality of the potatoes did not come up to expectations. The people expected to get the Iron Duke variety, but most of the quantity was of other varieties, which are not considered so suitable for the local soil.


At Flesherin, Point, on 30th April, Mr. John MacIver, 11 North Tolsta, was married to Annie, daughter of Mr. Angus MacDonald, Flesherin. On 8th May, Mr. Angus MacMillan, 4 Glen Tolsta, was married to Christina, daughter of Mr. John Murray, Merchant, North Tolsta.



The small boats with the haddock lines have been having excellent catches during the past ten days. Mr. Murdo MacInnes, with his boat "Jeannie", is always to the front.


There has recently been a fresh case of diphtheria in the district. The child is now progressing favourably. It is to be sincerely hoped Dr. Dewar's recent investigations will help to eradicate this troublesome epidemic from the district.


With the excellent weather, the Spring work is well under way. The cuckoo which has seldom visited this district during recent years was heard here last Sabbath.


So far only a few of the local men have started on this work, but these few are making very good progress. This road is being constructed so as to bear a weight of four or five tons. One man who had reclaimed a piece of skinned land several years ago, was able to provide the Contractor with about sixty tons of small stones which he had taken out of this plot for bottoming the new road.



At 10 North Tolsta, on 12th June, Mr. Murdo MacIver, 38 North Tolsta, was married to Christina, daughter of the late Angus MacIver, 10 North Tolsta. Rev. Roderick MacKenzie, Back, officiated.


About 120 men have now started work on the construction of the Tolsta to Ness road. Among these there are about two dozen men from other districts, including Harris. We understand no more outsiders are at present to be taken on. The position of the road being constructed at present passes through one of the most beautiful spots in Lewis.


Another case of diphtheria has broken out in the village, but we are pleased to learn the child is progressing favourably. As the local nurse is busy at other cases, Nurse MacKinnon, Stornoway, is here at present attending to this case. We understand the authorities desire to remove any further cases of this kind to hospital.


Some good hauls of fish are still being got by the small boats. The weather during the past fortnight has been very unsettled and the young corn is somewhat stunted in exposed places. Representatives from the Labour Exchange held another Referee Court in the local school, on Thursday, 12th June.



A fresh case of this oft recurring trouble has broken out in the village. We understand the patient, a child, is progressing favourably. It is to be hoped the authorities will continue their investigations till they get at the root of this trouble. It is an anxious time for parents with young families.


Pte. Donald MacLeod, Canadians, eldest son of Mr. Norman MacLeod, 63 North Tolsta, has been recently at home on a short leave, before returning to Canada. Corpl. Alex MacIver, Australians, son of Mr. Alex MacIver, 25 North Tolsta, has also been home recently prior to returning to Australia. His brother, Lieut. Roderick MacIver, R.F.A., is leaving also for Australia this week.



The small boats fishing out of this village are still getting good hauls of haddock and gurnard. Two new boats have recently been added to the local fleet. There has been a welcome improvement in the weather during the past weeks and crops are now beginning to regain their summer verdure.

The potatoes have not suffered so much as the other crops during the severe weather in June. 

A good deal of progress has been made in the construction of the new road to Ness. About 140 men are working and some weeks a good deal over three hundred pounds of money is coming into the village. The women folk are delighted that their men are getting such steady employment so near their homes. 
There are still isolated cases of diphtheria breaking out through the village. It seems the Local Government Board's Representative has not been able to get at the source of this trouble.



The school closed for annual holidays on 24th July until 1st September. It is hoped it will be possible to reopen the whole school then. The Infants and Lower Juniors have been excluded since the end of last March, on account of diphtheria. Things however, are not looking promising, for since 1st May, there have been no fewer than 13 cases of this disease. Fortunately, none have proved fatal.


On Thursday last, the men working on the North Tolsta road struck work. The reason for doing so was somewhat trivial. It seemed to have something to do with travelling from a certain point of the road to the rest of the week. The men returned to work on Monday morning and not the least ill-feeling exists between the men and the manager, Mr. Dunlop, whom the former highly respect and consider a very capable master. The men lost 25 hours' work and we are informed that they would require to work 200 days, even if their claims were conceded, to make up for the time lost. The people are very grateful to Lord Leverhulme for providing work for them so near their homes.



On Saturday, 19th July, there was a peace celebration picnic for the school children and others, held at Garry. As there was a funeral in the village that day, the festivities did not begin till 2pm. Over 200 children marched from the school to Garry, about 2 miles distant. Before the sports started, the senior pupils amused themselves by gathering water lillies on Loch na Cartach. The sports commenced about 5pm and many of the children took part in the following events - 300 yards, sack, three-legged, wheelbarrow, donkey and marathon races, egg and spoon races, tug of war, etc. There were over 100 prizes given and every child present received a coin in memory of the occasion. Mr. Dunlop gave out the prizes.

At the close, Mr. MacDonald, Schoolmaster, made a short speech suitable for the occasion. After the votes of thanks, the children were formed into a procession and marched home-ward, highly delighted with the day's outing. Mr. and Mrs. Dunlop, Mr. Allan Cameron, Mr. Donald MacLeod, Student, Misses K. A. Finlayson and Johanna MacLeod and the school teachers, helped with making the arrangements. Mr. John MacKenzie, Baker, Bayhead, Stornoway, catered for the picnic. Besides the £4 donation received from the Peace Celebration Committee at Stornoway, there was a substantial collection made by those working on the new road, while Mr. Dunlop, Mrs. MacDonald, the Farm; Mr. Allan Cameron, Mr. Donald MacLeod, Merchant; Mrs. Murray, Glasgow and the school teachers also gave good donations. The sward at Garry, where the picnic was held, is one of the most beautiful spots in Lewis.



This school was reopened on Monday last, after the annual holidays. During the Summer months, the Infants and Lower Juniors were excluded on account of the frequent recurrence of diphtheria in the district, but that whole school is now open, there being only about half a dozen pupils excluded.


Miss Annie M. MacLean, Stornoway, has entered upon her duties as Infant Mistress in North Tolsta School. Miss MacLean has been teaching in the local school prior to her entering Dundee Training Centre two years ago.


The weather has been very unsettled for some time and many people have not yet managed to get their peats carted home. Very little fishing has been done during the past three weeks. It is not likely that any corn can be reaped in this district till after the middle of this month and, as far as can be seen at present, there will be no hay in the village at all this year.



At the North Tolsta Free Presbyterian Church, Mr. Angus Nicolson, 9 North Tolsta, was married to Christina, daughter of Mr. Murdo MacDonald, 60 North Tolsta. Mr. Angus Morrison, 15 North Tolsta, was married to Annie, daughter of Mr. John MacLeod, 20 North Tolsta. Rev. Mr. MacIntyre, Stornoway, officiated.


The people have now started reaping the barley. The storms of recent weeks have badly damaged the corn. There has been no fishing done during the last fortnight. The district Nurse, is now away for her annual holidays and Nurse MacIver, Carloway, is to be here during Nurse Stewart's absence.


This trouble still breaks out here and there, throughout the village. There have been five cases during the last three weeks. Jean, the two-year-old daughter of Mr. John Murray, 71 North Tolsta, died of this illness a few days ago and the heartfelt sympathy of the Community is extended to the bereaved family. 1



A mass Meeting of the men of North Tolsta, was held in the Tolsta Public School, on Wednesday, 8th October. Mr. John MacLennan, No. 60, one of those responsible for calling the people together at the outset, explained the reasons which prompted them to hold the Meeting. He said that it was time they appointed a village Committee, which would deal with affairs pertaining to the welfare of the inhabitants. Thereafter, Mr. Angus MacLennan, No. 35, was called to the chair. The Meeting was unanimously in favour of having a Committee called, "The Tolsta Vigilance Welfare Association" elected on the spot.

The following Members were elected:- Mr. John MacLennan, No. 60; Mr. Roderick MacKay, No. 66; Mr. Torquil MacDonald, No. 9; Mr. Allan Murray, No. 4: Mr. Angus MacLennan, No. 35 and Mr. William MacDonald, No. 48. The Chairman then, amidst applause, invited a discussion on Lord Leverhulme's Schemes. Mr. Donald Cameron, J.P., Mr. John MacLennan, Mr. Kenneth MacLeod, Mr. Angus Graham, Mr. John Campbell, Mr. Allan Murray and others, took part in the discussion that followed.

The consensus of opinion was, that it would be detrimental to the welfare of the inhabitants of Lewis to do anything rash in the circumstances that would tend to thwart his Lordship's Schemes for the betterment of the island. Several of the speakers referred to the large amount of money he was spending since he came to the island in order to create employment for the people. It would be impossible to find any other landlord who had done so much in so short a time.

One of the men said that in one year his Lordship pays as much in wages alone, as it cost him to buy the island and said he, "we have seen only the beginning of his Schemes." The Chairman then asked those who were in favour of Lord Leverhulme's Scheme to put up their hands, with the result that there was a forest of hands put up. When he asked for a show of hands of those not approving of these Schemes, there was no hand put up. It is worthy of note that most of those who had recently met his Lordship at Back, were present at this Meeting.
The Chairman declared amidst loud cheering, that the Tolsta people were unanimous in aquiescing in Lord Leverhulme's Schemes and the newly-elected Committee were authorised to inform his Lordship of the result of the Meeting.


At 18 North Tolsta, on 24th September, Mr. John MacLeod, 58 North Tolsta, was married to Kennethina, youngest daughter of the late Murdo MacIver, 18 North Tolsta. At 52 North Tolsta, on 7th October, Mr. Donald MacLeod, 45 North Tolsta, was married to Christina, youngest daughter of the late Allan MacDonald. Rev. Mr. MacIntyre, Stornoway, officiated at both weddings. No fewer than 20 Tolsta couples have married during the past 12 months. Good for Tolsta!


Angus, the youngest son of Mr. Donald MacIver, 82 North Tolsta, died of the after effects of diphtheria, on Tuesday, 7th October. The deceased was 10 years of age and was a prime favourite with old and young in the district. Donald, a younger brother of the deceased, died last November, during the epidemic of influenza.



Owing to the outbreak of diphtheria in the Headmaster's house, the school is to be closed till the first Monday of December. There are also some other cases of this illness throughout the village.


There were 231 former pupils of this school on active service during the war. The population at the last census was 853 - 400 males and 450 females. This is equivalent to a percentage of 27 of the total population and of 58 per cent of the males. Fifty of these have made the supreme sacrifice, a percentage of 21.6 of these serving. Ninety per cent of them had enlisted before the Military Service Act came into force.

Widow John Campbell, No. 54, lost three of her seven sons and Mr. Kenneth MacLeod, No. 58, lost three of his five sons. Widow Martin, No. 76, lost her only son and two sons-in-law and Widow Campbell, No. 47, lost her husband and her eldest son. It is worthy of note that Mrs. John Campbell, (Jnr.), No. 54, had her husband, six brothers and six brothers-in-law serving. Tolsta's record is hard to beat.



This school reopens on Monday, 1st December. At present the district is practically clear of diphtheria. During the closure, all the drains about the school buildings were opened up and put in a satisfactory condition and various other improvements are also being carried through. The Education authorities are determined to have everything about the school in a sanitary condition.


The house of Mr. Allan Murray, 4 North Tolsta, was recently destroyed by fire. Within a few hours after the fire, up to fifty pounds was subscribed by the village people to help Mr. Murray to rebuild his house. The people of Coll have also sent £13.


We understand that Mr. John MacLennan, Crofter, 60 North Tolsta, has been nominated for the Parish Council. Mr. MacLennan, we think, should make a very good representative for the district. CHILD NEGLECT

Angus MacMillan, seaman, 2 Glen Tolsta, was apprehended on Monday by a Sheriff Warrant, at the insistance of the Stornoway Parish Council, charged with having failed to maintain one of his children, who was staying with his grandfather, at 2 Port-of Ness. He was bought before Sheriff Dunbar, and pled guilty. The Sheriff sentenced him to one month's imprisonment.