District News 1920

Parent Category: Timeline
Category: 1920

Tolsta District News 1920 as reported in the Stornoway Gazette



There was submitted a letter from the Scottish Board of Health, dated 19th November, 1919, requesting to be furnished with a further report with regard to the outbreak of diphtheria at North Tolsta. With regard to the proposal to erect a small hospital near the Nurse's Cottage at Tolsta, the Board state, that they will be glad to learn the result of the Local Authorities inquiries in this connection and they draw attention to the fact that an arrangement of this nature will involve the employment of another Nurse.
A report by the Sanitary Inspector on the subject, with his estimate of the cost of a small hospital with the necessary furnishings, would cost from £350 to £400. The Clerk read the reply, which he had forwarded to the Board and the Committee approved of same.
The Committee decided to make no recommendation on the subject of the proposed hospital, until a report is received from the Medical Officer for the Lewis Hospital.


Two of the local small boats are out tonight (Monday) with their nets. There are about 150 Drifters tonight on the Tolsta Sands and the view they present is magnificent, the whole bay being a crescent of brilliant lights.



Mr. Allan Murray, who some time ago had his house destroyed by fire, has received a special Grant of £20, from the Association of Highland Societies, Edinburgh. He has also received very substantial subscriptions from the villages of Back and Tong.


Several Tolsta couples have recently married. John MacKay, 2 North Tolsta and Annie Nicolson, Hill Street; Torquil MacDonald, North Tolsta and Margaret Graham, 9 North Tolsta; Donald MacDonald, Tong and Annie MacMillan, Glen Tolsta; Donald MacIver, Borve and Bessie Morrison, 15 North Tolsta; Donald MacKenzie, Benside and Isabella Nicolson, Hill Street.


The disease still continues to break out here and there through the village. The last case is one of the local Bursars in the Nicolson Institute, who was home for Christmas holidays. The parents of many of the children in the Infant classes are withholding their children from school, on account of diphtheria scare. The Education Authority has distempered and painted the main school buildings and outhouses. They have also in contemplation the overhauling of the Infant School buildings. We understand the village people have written to the Central Authorities to urge upon them to get at the operative source of the trouble.



At 28 North Tolsta, on 15th January, Murdo MacDonald, 16 North Tolsta, was married to Murdina, youngest daughter of Widow Donald MacIver. Rev. R. MacKenzie, Back, officiated.


Much progress is being made on the construction of this road in spite of the unfavourable weather experienced during this Winter. Much blasting had to be done through the rugged rocks between the Garry and Amhuinn na Cloich. The road at some places here is so near the sea cliffs, that most of the rocks blasted fall into the sea. In the course of a few days a large number of the work-people will have crossed Amhuinne-na-Cloich.


The children attending the West Coast Mission Sunday Class, conducted by Nurse Stewart, had their annual soiree on Friday, 9th January. The following ladies helped Nurse Stewart during the evening:- Miss Crichton, Stornoway and Misses Christina Macleod, H. MacLeod, J. Thomson and A. M. MacLean. After tea was served with a plentiful supply of cake and buns, the children sang several Hymns and several of the little ones recited portions of Scripture. Mrs. Cameron addressed the children in Gaelic and solos were sung by some of the ladies present. All are indebted to Mr. John Duff, the Organising Secretary, for his kindly interest in the welfare of the district. This year he again sent an ample supply of cakes.



Dr. Innes, a Specialist from the Board of Health, is at present making investigations locally to get at the operative source of the trouble of diphtheria, which has been recurring with such frequency during the last five years. Most of the children temporarily withheld from School have returned during the past two weeks.


This has so far been in reality a Winter of storms and rain, snow and wind. The storm on Sunday week was one of the severest experienced here for some time. There was considerable minor damage done to property. At Garry, the roof was torn off the house built by the Contractor for the men working at the road. The house is to be repaired at once.
On Friday last, a Back boat after hauling the lines in the Broad Bay, could not battle against the storm; so she had to run for Tolsta, but, could not manage to land at the pier there owing to the heavy seas. There was then nothing for it, but allow her run round Tolsta Head, where she was almost swamped several times. The boat looked like a shell on the crest of the waves over the Tolsta Sands as she ran bare masted to the mouth of River Garry, where with some difficulty she managed to land safely. Local people who had seen the boat in Broad Bay, ran across to Garry, where they were of much assistance to the crew at the time of landing.



Like many other parts of Lewis, this village suffered severely from the storm of Tuesday, of last week. More than half of the houses are built 300 feet above the level of the sea and where these houses had a southern frontage, the force of the wind was so terrific,that several families had to leave their homes and others were practically imprisoned in their houses, for if the front door was once opened, the roof was sure to lift off. The School and several other buildings suffered severely from the effect of the storm.


There have been no fresh cases for the past ten days. In the local schools jotters have been substituted for slates and the pupils are having a gargling parade daily. There is some hope that the district may be cleared of this troublesome disease during the course of the year.
Murdina, the eldest child of Mr. Torquil Campbell, 34 North Tolsta, died in the Stornoway Infectious Diseases Hospital, on Sunday, 15th February. The deceased was 7 years of age. She had an attack of diphtheria of a very virulent type and there had not been much hope of her recovery from the beginning. Mr. Campbell's other children are at present in hospital and we understand they are progressing favourably.



Last week Col. Lindsay, accompanied by Mr. Colin J. Maciver, visited the district. They have consented to allow the allotment holders to have the plots on the Farm as in former years. Several of the local people are applying to Lord Leverhulme for houses. There is so much congestion in this district that new houses are much required and we hope the people will soon have them.



On 4th March, Mr. Dunlop, Messrs. MacAlpine's Manager, gave a gramophone entertainment to the school children of the village. The main hall of the school was crowded, over 200 being present, including several adults. All present enjoyed themselves very much. Mr. MacDonald, Schoolmaster, proposed a vote of thanks to Mr. Dunlop, who replied that it gave him great pleasure to be with them and that we would come again if they tried to attend the school regularly.



While a daughter of Mr. Angus MacKenzie, 48 North Tolsta, was delving on one of the small plots on the North Tolsta Farm, she came across a penny bearing the date 1806. The date and lettering on the coin are quite distinct. The diameter is a little less than that of a modern penny, but owing to the thickness, it is about the same weight. The coin must have been lying in the sandy soil of the machair for at least 80 years.


Mr. Fletcher and Mr. C. J. MacIver, visited the school, on Wednesday of last week and gave a cinematograph entertainment. There were about 250 present, including a good sprinkling of adults. The films shown were lightly educative and young and old enjoyed the entertainment immensely. The pictures represented walrus-hunting and hunting for ivory, the common crab, the hermit crab, the octopus, etc., in their native haunts; forest scenes in Australia and the Park of the Sacred Hind. The above Pictures were interspersed with comedies. Mr. MacDonald, Teacher, called upon those present to accord a hearty vote of thanks to his Lordship, who not only provides work for their fathers and brothers, but also provides entertainment. Mr. Fletcher replied and thanked the audience for the hearty reception given to them as the representatives of Lord Leverhulme, to whom all the thanks should be accorded for that entertainment. He believed his Lordship would again send them round with a fresh supply of films, for he takes much interest in the educative enjoyment of the children of Lewis.



The men employed on the new road to Ness, have received an increase to their wages. Operations have now started on the new bridge across the River Garry. The height of this bridge will be about 50 feet and the span will be about 100 feet. From where it is constructed, one commands an excellent view, not only of the Bay of Garry, but also of Glen More, up to within a short distance of Muirneag. When John Bickerdyke wrote his "Banished Beauty" little did he think that "Port Gheiridhe", as he called this particular locality, would have such a magnificent bridge spanning Gil a Fors, where one of his characters shot one of the farmer's cows instead of a red deer.



One of the largest Meetings held in Stornoway for many years, was that convened in the Drill Hall last Friday night, 14th May, for the purpose of considering the steps that should be taken to avert the calamitous results that will ensue if Lord Leverhulme's Schemes for the industrial development of the island are abandoned.

The Chairman said they were all aware of the object of the Meeting, so that it was not necessary for him to read the bill. At the outset, he was asked to read the resolutions that had come in from Meetings held in some of the country districts.

The followed were passed at North Tolsta on Tuesday last: "That this mass Meeting of the men of North Tolsta heartily approves of the Schemes of Lord Leverhulme for the development of Lewis and strongly disapproves of the attitude of the raiders at Gress and Coll Farms. That we view with alarm any action taken by the Board of Agriculture and Scottish Office that would tend in the least to thwart his Lordship's Schemes. Further that we consider it would be an incalculable loss to the Community, if his Lordship is compelled by the action of those raiders, or by that of the Board of Agriculture to stop or even to suspend his beneficient Schemes......"

Councillor John MacLennan, North Tolsta, in seconding the resolution, said: "I am sorry I cannot speak in English (having been persuaded to speak in Gaelic.) I have not very much to say at any rate. I cannot speak for anything or anybody but myself. I myself am a Crofter and a Fisherman; I have been a navvy and a Labourer - I have tried everything. I have the croft my father had and I have tried to work it successfully. I was as good at my own work as anyone in the district. There were many stronger than I am, but not one who worked harder.

"I went to Rosyth and worked there for seven years. While I was away, my family of six worked on the croft. They had all to stay at home to work it. At Rosyth there were 1600 men going out at the same gate with me and I was as well paid as any of them, I am sure I was as wise as any of them in the spending of my money; I had to do everything with it. I was the only one who owned a croft and there was not one in the 1600 as poor as myself. They were in famillies drawing their good pay every week. I had to give one-half of my pay to my landlady and send the rest home to my family. The other workers and their famillies were dressed like Duke's children, when they went to the street, while I was like a poor black boy among them. (Laughter and applause)

"I think it was God himself that sent Lord Leverhulme here. Everyone knows how the island was and I don't know how the island would have been this year had he not been here. (Applause) For my own part, I am past all work at any rate. Although Lord Leverhulme would be strewing his money about the streets it would be as much as I could do to pick it up. (Laughter)

"I am over 60 years of age. I would not ask anyone to do but what I would do myself. I would never ask anybody to have to do what I had to do. Formerly the people had to go away from the island - to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families. Nobody had to leave the island for that since Lord Leverhulme came. (Applause) They are only coming back from other parts to get a living here. (Applause) I am of the opinion that we as an island should rise as one man against every man who is trying to put Lord Leverhulme away and we should leave the island to Lord Leverhulme." (Applause)



As has been feared, the men working on the construction of the Tolsta to Ness road, were paid off on Wednesday, 12th May. As the scaffolding of Garry Bridge had been erected prior to the receiving of the stoppage announcement and as it would be a danger to leave this structure in its present condition, the bridge is to be completed, but this will provide work for only about a score of people.

The news of the cessation of the work was received here with consternation, even although such news had not been altogether unexpected. Men with large families will soon have to seek work outwith the island, for so far as indications go, there is not much likelihood of a prosperous herring fishing. The local line fishing is not promising either and even supposing fish were plentiful, there is no market for it, here or in Stornoway, if Lord Leverhulme's Schemes are stopped.

On Tuesday, 11th May, there was a mass Meeting of the men of the district, held in the local school. Councillor John MacLennan presided and briefly stated to the Meeting the arrangements made at the Meeting of public bodies held at Stornoway the previous Friday. Several resolutions were unanimously adopted, heartily approving of the attitude of the raiders and viewing with alarm any action taken by the Government, that would tend to thwart these Schemes. Councillor John MacLennan and Mr. Donald MacDonald, 75 North Tolsta, were appointed delegates to the General Meeting at Stornoway, to be held the following Friday. Several other local men went to the Meeting at Stornoway.


A deputation from the Lewis workmen visited the district last Friday. They consisted of Mr. Angus Smith, Tong; Mr. John Murray, Sheshader; Mr. John MacDonald, Ness and Mr. John Macmillan, Lochs. A Meeting of the local workmen was held in the School to meet this deputation. There was a large number present. Mr. Macmillan presided and read the Lewis Workers' Manifesto. Mr. Angus MacKenzie, No. 48, moved and Mr. Angus MacLennan, No. 35, seconded, that the resolutions be adopted and this was carried by acclamation. There was no dissenting voice. Mr. John Morrison, No. 46;
Mr. Donald MacIver, No. 33; Mr. Donald MacLennan, No. 35; Mr. John Murray, No. 71; Mr. William Gunn, No. 70; Mr. Donald MacDonald, No. 38; Councillor John MacLennan and others also spoke. Messrs. John Morrison, No. 46 and Donald MacLennan, No. 35; two landless men and ex-Service men, were appointed as local representatives from other districts in the island, the Gress and Coll raiders in order to try and dissuade them from their detrimental policy.



We are glad to hear that Mr. John MacInnes, Hill Street, North Tolsta, has received a certificate of "mention in despatches." He distinguished himself in saving the life of a comrade who had fallen overboard, when the ship was laying mines. His name appeared in the London Gazette, on 6th April, 1918. Mr. MacInnes was one of the survivors of H.M.V. Iolaire.



Master George Morrison, son of Mr. John Morrison, 46 North Tolsta, has been successful in winning in the recent League of Youth Essay competition, one of the prizes given by "The Teacher's World." This is very credible to a Gaelic-speaking boy, only 13 years of age, especially in view of the fact that there were so many other competitors. We beg to congratulate him on his success.



Dr. Robertson, H.M.C.I.S., accompanied by Dr. George MacDonald, of the Scottish Education Department, visited the local school last Monday.


The local school was closed for annual holidays on Friday, 16th July, to reopen on Wednesday, 25th August. The book prizes given by Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher, Stornoway and other friends, for the best descriptions of the cinematograph entertainment given in school last April, were handed out by Mrs. Murray, Glasgow, a former assistant in the school. Miss Stewart, Lismore and Miss MacKenzie, New Cumnock, were present also. Mrs. Murray is to give a book prize to the pupil who will write the best description of the holidays.



There was much excitement as well as anxiety in this district early on Friday, when it was discovered that one of the boats fishing off the Ard of Tolsta was on fire. There were no boats launched from here as it was known that many of the fishing fleet were in close proximity to the burning vessel. Those who had relatives fishing out of Stornoway, wired to the Fish Market at Stornoway, for news of the two Tolsta crews. It seems that the vessel belonged to Hopeman and that the crew have been landed safely in Stornoway.



Malcolm Murray, 12 years of age, son of Mr. John Murray, 71 North Tolsta, was drowned, while bathing in Loch Dhirdin, on 4th August. Malcolm left home with the cattle early in the morning with the intention of leaving them out on the moor and returning home as soon as possible. But when he reached the above Loch, he met two or three other boys. Malcolm and one of these boys decided to have a swim before returning home. His comrade noticed that he was going too far from the shore and advised him not to venture too far out.

He could swim only very little and on one occasion he ventured out too far, with the result that he went beyond his depth. He was seen to sink and he never came to the surface again. The young children who witnessed the accident were unable to do anything. One or two of them ran home to report. A large crowd of people gathered to the Loch and they managed to secure the body with the help of a fishing line. Malcolm was a very brave and courageous boy and was very much liked by everyone in the district.


North Tolsta is now without a Post-Office. The man appointed to suceed Mr. MacLeod, failed to have a house secured for carrying on the work of the Post-Office and at present the mail-gig arrives om the usual mail days and the letters are delivered by the maildriver to callers. The old age pensioners and others had no money paid to them for three weeks and the nearest telegraph office is Back, which is seven miles distant. 17/9/20
The village is still withiut a Post-Office. Letters are handed out to callers from the mail-gig; old-age pensioners and others, have to go to Coll for their money, which entails a journey of 14 miles. On account of this, the School Savings Association is at a standstill. In a case of serious illness, especially when the nurse is away on holiday, it is hard when one has to travel seven miles to the nearest telegraph office to send for medical assistance.



Arrangements aree being carried out to start continuation Classes in the local school. The principal subjects are to be English, Arithmetic and Mensuration. There will also be a class in Gaelic if a sufficient number of pupils desire instruction in that subject.



The Bridge is now completed and a great credit is due both to the designers and to the builders of this beautiful structure, which has a height of 50 feet and a span of 100 feet. It is built of reinforced concrte and it has seven arches the main one with three smaller ones on each side of it. The road over the bridge is 15 feet wide, with a pavement three feet wide on each side. Indeed this erection enhances the beauty of the locality, which was already one of the most beautiful spots in the Highlands.


On Tuesday of last week, when the men engaged on the construction of the Garry Bridge finished their day's work, they presented Mr. Alex Dunlop, the Manager, with a silver-mounted ebony walking stick and a burnt amber pipe, on the occasion of his leaving the district.



A new Post-Office was opened at 82 North Tolsta, on Thursday, 21st October. Mr. Alexander MacRae, is the new sub Post-Master. The telephone has not yet been installed, but we hope this will be attended to without delay. It is very convenient, especially in a case of illness, to have to travel fourteen miles to procure medical assistance. We know of one local instance recently, ehere a man had to walk to and from Stornoway, no less than 10 times - equivalent to 280 miles - and all of this could have been obviated if the telephone had been installed locally.



The weather during the past week was about the severest ever experienced in this district. There were minor cases of damage throughout the village. The bungalow in course of construction for the assistant teachers got the brunt of the storm, but it held its ground. Many slates were disloged from the school and the lead ridge was torn off in several places. Boats were tossed about by the wind and damaged.



Another cinematograph entertainment was given by Mr. and Mrs. S. B. Fletcher, to the young people of the village on Tuesday, 23 November. There were two exhibitions, the first to the Infants and Juniors and the second to the Seniors and Evening-class pupils. The rounds of applause as the films flashed on the screen, testified to the children's keen appreciation of the entertainment. The pictures shown, represented mussel fishing, herring fishing, fishing for cuttle-fish, trout piscieulture, a marriage procession in Brittany, a great carnival and many other educative sketches. There were also some comic pieces.



While one of the tradesmen employed on the erection of the Teacher's Bungalow at Tolsta was cycling to Stornoway on Saturday, 27th November, he fell over the Tolsta- Glen Bridge and was very seriously injured. It seems that as he was descending the Glen Brae his brake refused to work and he struck against the end of the parapet. He fell a distance of 30 feet among the boulders on the margin of the river. He was discovered by a young boy, who gave the alarm. The mail gig was coming from Tolsta and the injured man was brought to his home at Coulegrain. Dr. Stewart, who happened to be on his way to Tolsta, saw the man and rendered all the assistance possible.


Some time ago, a letter was received by the Lewis District Committee from the County Clerk, enclosing a copy of a recent report by the Inspector of Piers, on the pier at Portnambothag. From the report, it appeared that as the pier is in such an inaccessible and exposed situation, that the Inspector doubted whether it is worth attempting to maintain it and stated that it would require to be done during very good weather. The District Committee wrote, asking for further observations on the report.

At a Meeting last week, the Chairman stated, that the Sub-Committee appointed for the purpose, visited the pier and conversed with a number of persons interested, of whom Mr. Cameron was spokesman. The Chairman said he read the County Clerk's letter to the people and explained to them the position of matters, pointing out that it was for them to say whether the pier would be of service to them or not. As it was at present, it was of no use, the acccess to the pier having been washed away. When the pier was constructed the intention was, that it should be extended for some little distance towards the south, so as to form a "T." If the original Scheme had been carried out, the people of the district were of the opinion that the pier would be of a very great service and the Sub-Committee were satisfied that this would be the case. The Meeting agreed to intimate to the County Council, the position of matters with regard to the pier.



Mr. Angus MacLeod, B.SC., delivered two lectures on crops and livestock in the local school on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. The lectures were illustrated by limelight views. These lectures were very well attended, both by old and young. After each lecture, there was a general discussion about the points Mr. MacLeod dealt with.