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Barvas

(Barabhas)

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Barvas (Gael. Barabhas), a village and a parish in the N of the Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Ross-shire. The village stands near the western coast and the mouth of Barvas river, 12 miles NW of Stornoway, and has a post office under that town, and a temperance hotel. Pop. (1871) 501. Including the islets of Rona-Lewis and Sulisker, 40 miles N and 46 NNE, the parish contains also Bragar village, 5 miles WSW of Barvas, and the adjoining villages of Cross or Ness and Suainabost, 13 miles NE, Ness having another post office under Stornoway. Bounded NW by the Atlantic, NE by the North Minch (36 miles broad here at the narrowest), SE by Stornoway, and SW by Lochs, it has an extreme length from NE to SW of 223/8 miles, a varying width from NW to SE of 37/8 and 77/8 miles, and a land area of 89,054 acres. The steep and rock-bound coast, in northerly gales lashed by tremendous surf, projects the headlands of Seileir or Cellar, Rudha Geall, the Butt of Lewis (142 feet), Aird Dhail, Aird Bharabhais, and Aird Mhor Bhragair, and is broken only by the little creeks of some sixteen smooth, north-westwardflowing streams, the largest of them Barvas river, which, rising just within Stornoway parish, runs 7 miles to Loch Mor Bharabhais (6½ x 4½ furl.), and thence 1 furlong to the open sea. Inland, the surface is one continuous moss, treeless and well-nigh shrubless, that seldom sinks to (and never much below) 100 feet above sea-level, and but little exceeds 400 feet in Beinn Bhail and Druim Ghrinnabhal, 500 in Tom Dithabhail, whilst culminating in Beinn Choinnich (690 feet), close to the border of Lochs. Especially in the SE and SW, it is thickly sown with more than a hundred shallow lakes and lakelets-Lochs Urraghag (10 x 1 to 4½ furl.), Breidhbhat (7¾ x 62/3 furl.), and Na Scarabhat (6½ x 1 to 3 furl.), to the SW, and Loch Langabhat (9¾ x 1 to 3 furl.) to the NW, of Barvas river. These waters all abound in dark-coloured trout, the rivers yielding, too, sea-trout and salmon; the moors are denizened with red deer, grouse, woodcocks, and plovers, the cliffs with myriads of seafowl, and the neighbouring seas with cod, haddock, and ling. Gneiss is the prevalent rock, with a considerable depth of gravel between it and the moss; and, the latter in course of years having been here and there cut away for fuel, it is on the strong, gravelly subsoil thus laid bare that agriculture is chiefly carried on, the exceptions being where patches of moss or sand near the sea-shore are wrought for crops. Of farms there were eight in 1875, with a total rental of £510; and of crofts, from the Butt to Callernish, including portions of Lochs and Uig parishes, there were 1059, together paying £3427, the crofters eking out the scanty harvests of their fields by the rich harvest of the sea. Nearly all the property belongs to Lady Matheson, widow of the late Sir James Matheson, Bart. (1796-1878). An isolated stone, 18 feet high, and nearly as much in circumference, between Barvas village and Shadir, is probably a glacier-carried boulder; but within the parish are vestiges of 4 pre-Reformation chapels, and ruins of 4 circular towers, of the kind ascribed to the Scandinavians. In the presbytery of Lewis and synod of Glenelg, Barvas is divided into the quoad sacra parishes of Cross and Barvas, the latter having 2439 inhabitants in 1871, a parish church (erected about 1794; 300 sittings; stipend, £257), and a Free church; the former, 2511 inhabitants, a parish church, and a Free church. Three public schools-Barvas, Bragar, and Airidh-an-tuim-with respective accommodation for 159,192, and 170 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 61,76, and 93, and grants of £41, 3s., £37,16s., and £31,12s. Valuation (1881) £3109, 7s. Pop. (1801) 2233, (1821) 2568, (1841) 3850, (1861) 4609, (1871) 4950, (1881) 5326, all Gaelic-speaking but 2.—Ord. Sur., shs. 105,111,112,1858.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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