Stornoway

   STORNOWAY, a burgh of barony, sea-port, and parish, in the Island of Lewis, county of Ross and Cromarty, 120 miles (N. W. by W.) from Dingwall; containing, with the late quoad sacra parish of Knock or Uii, 6218 inhabitants, of whom 1354 are in the burgh. This place, originally called Uii from the situation of its ancient church on an isthmus, derives its present name from the position of the town at the northern extremity of the bay of Stornoway, on a point of land projecting into the harbour. The town, which at first consisted merely of a few small cottages inhabited by fishermen, attained a high degree of importance under the patronage of the late Lord Seaforth, and his representative, J. A. Stewart Mc Kenzie, Esq., M.P., who, by marriage with his lordship's daughter, became superior of the barony and its sole proprietor. It is situated on the eastern shore of the harbour, and consists of several spacious and regular streets of well-built houses. A public library and a news-room are supported by subscription, and card and dancing assemblies are held in the same building, a handsome structure containing also apartments for the brethren of St. John's Masonic Lodge. There is a mill for grinding corn, built at much expense: a malt-mill, to which is attached a spacious warehouse for the reception of grain, which can be landed at the door from vessels in the harbour, has been erected upon the most improved plan; and there is also a distillery upon a very extensive scale. An attempt was made some time since to introduce the straw-plat manufacture, for which purpose Mrs. Mc Kenzie brought two well-qualified persons, to whom she paid salaries; but after a few of the younger females had been taught, the work was discontinued, and the only manufacture now carried on is that of kelp, and this to a very small extent.
   The principal trade of the port arises from the fisheries, the produce of which is sent chiefly to the several towns on the Clyde, and to Ireland. The fish generally taken off the coast are cod and ling, of which, on an average, about 120 tons are annually cured in the parish, the former valued at £12, and the latter at £15, per ton. Herrings, also, are taken, though not in great quantity; and haddocks, soles, conger-eels, flounders, and a fish called the laithe, which is considered superior to the whiting in flavour, are found in abundance: the flounders taken in Broad bay are of very excellent quality. The number of boats engaged in the fishery is about 1500. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port is sixty-seven, averaging from fifteen to 140 tons, and amounting to 3059 tons aggregate burthen: the amount of duties paid at the customhouse in 1843 was £277. The harbour of Stornoway affords safe anchorage for vessels of any size, which may enter at any state of the tide, and find shelter from all winds; and numerous British and foreign vessels, when driven by stress of weather, accordingly find a sure refuge here. A lighthouse was erected by the proprietor on Arnish point, to enable vessels to make the harbour at night; but from an apprehension that the light might be mistaken for another in the vicinity, it has not been exhibited. The quay is well adapted for the loading and unloading of vessels, and there is a neat custom-house, of which the establishment consists of a comptroller, collector, and tide-waiter. There are a rope-work, and several places for repairing vessels, in which many ship-carpenters are employed. Nearly adjoining the town is an inclosed moor, on which a large fair for cattle is held on the second Wednesday in July; it is frequented by great numbers of dealers from the main land and from England, and many thousand head of cattle are sold. There are several good inns in the town for the accommodation of visiters, and of persons attending the fair; a branch bank; and some insurance offices. The post-office has a tolerable delivery; and facility of communication is maintained by vessels frequenting the harbour, by packets which ply regularly between this place and Poolewe, and by statute roads that intersect the parish. The town was erected into a burgh of barony by charter of James VI.; and in 1825 the Honourable Mrs. Stewart Mc Kenzie, then superior of the burgh, granted the resident lessees and burgesses the privilege of electing the magistrates and town-council. The government is vested in two bailies, and a council of six, regularly chosen under that charter. There are no guilds or incorporations having exclusive privileges; but a person cannot carry on trade within the burgh without becoming a burgess, for which he pays to the common fund an admission fee of £1. 13. 4. The magistrates exercise civil jurisdiction in cases of debt, to a trifling amount; and the sheriff-substitute for the district of Lewis, who resides in Stornoway, holds his courts in the town.
   The parish is bounded on the east and on the south by the channel of the Minch, separating it from the main land; and is about sixteen miles in length and nearly ten miles in breadth, comprising 35,000 acres, of which 2700 are arable, about two acres woodland and plantations, and the large remainder moorland pasture and waste. The surface rises gradually from the coast towards the northern boundary, where it attains, at the hill of Mournack, which is the only hill of any note, an elevation of about 700 feet above the level of the sea. The scenery, from the want of woods and plantations, is generally destitute of beauty. The rivers are, the Creid, which issues from Loch Creid, in the north-western extremity of the parish, and falls into the bay of Stornoway; and the Laxdale, the Tong, the upper and nether Coll, and the Gress, all of which have their sources in the northern part of the parish, and flow southward into Broad bay. There are also numerous lakes, but they are not remarkable for any particular features, and the largest is less than three miles in circumference; they all abound with black trout of small size. In the rivers Creid, Tong, and Gress, a few salmon and seatrout are occasionally found. The coast is mostly bold and rocky, and is indented with bays, of which the chief are, the bay and harbour of Stornoway; Broad bay, which, from a sunken reef at its entrance, is not safe for vessels; Loch Ure; Bayble; and Tolsta bay. The principal headlands are, Tolsta, Kneess, Tuimpan, and Chicken heads, and Holm point. In some few parts the shore is flat, consisting of fine sands, especially at Tong, Melbost, Uii, Coll, and Gress; other parts are lined with shelving rocks of rugged aspect and of difficult access. There are several romantic caves, but the most remarkable is that called the Seal Cave, from its having formerly been the resort of great numbers of seals, and in which annually multitudes were destroyed by torchlight. The interior of this cavern decreases gradually from a width of ten feet at the entrance to a breadth of four feet, beyond which it expands into a wide semicircular basin of deep water; the roof is lofty, and, like the sides, thickly incrusted with stalactites of brilliant lustre.
   The soil in some parts is sandy, in others gravelly, and occasionally a black loam of tolerable fertility; but the most prevalent is a peat-moss incumbent on red clay of impervious quality. The crops are, barley, oats, bear, potatoes, and turnips. The system of husbandry, though improved within the last few years, is still in a backward state; the farm-buildings are of inferior order, and but a very inconsiderable portion of the large tracts of waste has been brought into cultivation. The cattle, of which about 8000 are reared on the pastures, are of the true Highland black breed, with the exception of a few Ayrshire cows on the dairy-farms; and the few sheep that are reared in the parish are all the blackfaced. There are no remains of the woods that formerly existed here beyond the trunks of trees, which are occasionally dug out of the moss; and the plantations are only about two acres in extent, near Seaforth Lodge, and in a sheltered situation. The principal substratum is whinstone, of which a large dyke on the farm of Gress is supposed to extend across the whole of the island; there is a quarry near Garabost, but the greater portion of the stone used in the parish is imported from the main land, or brought from the adjoining parish of Lochs. The rateable annual value of Stornoway is £3112. Seaforth Lodge, the seat of the late Mr. Mc Kenzie, is a handsome modern mansion, situated at the head of Loch Stornoway, on the western shore, opposite to the town, and in a highly cultivated demesne forming an interesting feature in the scenery. James Matheson, Esq., M.P., now owns the entire parish.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Lewis and synod of Glenelg. The minister's stipend is £158. 6. 7., of which one-third is paid from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum: patron, the Crown. The church, erected in 1794, and repaired in 1831, is a handsome structure containing 568 sittings. A chapel in connexion with the Established Church was built at Back, in the district of Gress, by the late Lord Seaforth, and has been repaired by the present proprietor; it will hold 300 persons, but is now used as a schoolroom. The late quoad sacra parish of Knock is separately described. A small episcopal chapel has been recently built, and the members of the Free Church have places of worship. The parochial school is well attended; the master receives a salary of £32, with an allowance of £5 in lieu of house and garden, and the fees average about £20 per annum. There are still some remains of the ancient churches of Uii and Gress; and within the last fifty years only, the original church of Stornoway, which was dedicated to St. Lennan, has been levelled to prepare a site for the erection of the present parish church. Of the church of Uii, dedicated to St. Collum, the walls, of great thickness, are yet standing; and in a part of it which is still roofed, the minister of Stornoway used to officiate once in six weeks till the church of Knock was built. The church at Gress was dedicated to St. Aula; part only of the walls are remaining. There was also a chapel at Garabost, of which all traces have been removed. On the point of land stretching into the bay of Stornoway are some slight remains of an ancient castle of the Mc Leods, the lords of the island; and near the spot is the site of a fort built by Oliver Cromwell, of which scarcely a vestige is left.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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  • Stornoway — /stawrdd neuh way /, n. a city in NW Scotland, in the Hebrides. 5247. * * * Gaelic Steornabhagh Burgh and largest town and port (pop., 1991: 5,975), Outer Hebrides Islands, Scotland. Located on the island of Lewis and Harris, Stornoway grew from… …   Universalium

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