Parish of Harris

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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1791-99: Harris
1834-45: Harris

Harris, a parish in the Outer Hebrides, Inverness-shire, comprehending the southern part of Lewis, a large number of adjacent or neighbouring islets and islands, and the distant island of St Kilda. It bas a post office of its own name, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, under Stornoway; and it is regularly visited at Tarbert by steamers on the passage from Glasgow to Stornoway. Its main part is bounded N by Lewis parish in Ross-shire, E by the Minch and the Little Minch, S by the Sound of Harris, which divides it from North Uist, and W by the Atlantic Ocean. Connected with Lewis parish by an isthmus of 7 miles between the middle of Loch Seaforth and the head of Loch Reasort, it measures 21 miles in extreme length from NNE to SSW, 18 miles in extreme breadth, and (inclusive of islands) 123,757 acres in area. It is almost cut in two, through the middle, by East Loch Tarbert and West Loch Tarbert, approaching so near each other as to leave an isthmus less than a mile across; and everywhere else its E and W coasts are so indented by the sea as to render its breadth at all parts very variable, not more than 7 miles upon an average. As seen from the Minch it presents such a bare, whitish, rocky, mountainous appearance as to have won for it its name of Harris (Gael. Na Hardibh, `the heights'). The islands, with the exception of St Kilda, all lie very near the main body, most of them so near as to be separated from it by the narrowest straits; but, though very numerous, only seven of them are inhabited- Bernera, Ensay, Killigray, Pabbay, Scalpa, Scarp, and Tarrensay. The sea-lochs, bays, and creeks of the main body, particularly on its E side, afford commodious harbourage to ships and boats. The shores and some inland vales are sufficiently low and fertile to afford fair resources of sustenance to the inhabitants. The interior, from end to end, is mainly occupied by mountain ridges, 1000 to 2662 feet high. The lochs and streams are so numerous that they cannot easily be particularised; most of them teem with trout and salmon. Gneiss is the predominant rock; granite and sandstone also abound; and serpentine, asbestos, iron ore, and copper ore are found. The aggregate of arable land is very small. Sheep husbandry is largely practised; and the Cheviot breed of sheep was introduced prior to 1840, and found to be remarkably suitable. Deer abound amongst the hills; grouse are plentiful on the moors; geese, plovers, and pigeons frequent the low grounds and the swamps; eagles visit the mountainous rocks; fish of many kinds swarm in the waters; and lobsters and oysters are on some sea-grounds near the shores. Ancient standing-stones, in circles or in other arrangements, are numerous; Scandinavian forts were also formerly conspicuous, but have been removed for the erection of other buildings; and an Augustinian monastery, on the site of a Culdee cell, was founded at Rowadill at an early period, and had a number of chapels connected with it throughout the northern parts of the Outer Hebrides. Now it is represented by its ruined cruciform church, with a rude E tower and a richly sculptured recumbent effigy of Alexander Macleod of Dunvegan. The Earl of Dunmore and Sir Edward Henry Scott, Bart-, are chief proprietors. In the presbytery of Uist and synod of Glenelg, this parish is divided ecclesiastically into Bernera and Harris proper, the latter a living worth £191. Its church, erected in 1840, contains 400 sittings; and there are Free churches of Harris and Tarbert. Eleven schools-Bernera, Denishader, Finsbay, Kyles Scalpa, Kyles Stocknish, Manish, Obe, Scalpa, Scarp, Scarista, and Tarbert-all of them public but the last, with total accommodation for 952 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 470, and grants amounting to £446, 7s. 6d. Valuation (1860) £4073, (1882) £5821, 12s. 7d. Pop. of civil parish (1801) 2996, (1831) 3900, (1861) 4183, (1871) 4120, (1881) 4814, of whom 4646 were Gaelic-speaking and 3433 belonged to the main body; pop. of ecclesiastical parish (1871) 3739, (1881) 4360.

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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