Saturday, 11 January 2014

In The Beginning

Dalmore and Dalbeg are adjacent villages, on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Their golden beaches in the past provided sand blow which gave rise to very fertile machair lands. This made the Dailean very desirable to cotters and farmers throughout the ages. And for that reason there are various written references to land tenure in Dalmore and Dalbeg. Macleod is the most common name in Lewis, but in Carloway and its satellite villages, Garenin and Dalmore, there is high proportion of people bearing the name Macleod. One must remember that for hundreds of years, until 1610, Lewis was owned by Clan Macleod of Lewis. There is a written record of 1615 stating that the Macleods of the Carloway area are descended from one, Tormod Uigeach (an illegitimate son). Tormod (Norman) held the "farm at Dalmore". He was given the tack at Dalmore by his proud father, Rory Mor. Murdo, another bastard son of Rory Mor, by the sister of Uisden (Hugh)the Brieve, was given the tack of Shawbost. It has to be said that these two bastards did alright for themselves. In the year 1745, the Macleods, descendents of that same Tormod Uigeach, now rented Dalmore and Dalbeg from their overlords, the Mackenzies, enobled later as the Earls of Seaforth. The rental for this tack was much higher than any adjacent place. There was a good living to be made on this farm, which grew barley and oats, and which could support a large number of cattle and sheep. You could say that the Macleods of Dalmore were well-to-do, with a lifestyle which reflected their relative wealth. The present incumbent of the farm of Dalmore and Dalbeg was Murdo Macleod whose wife was Margaret Murray, and she came from Ness, in the far north of Lewis. They had a large family of five daughters and four sons. The eldest of the family were the brothers, Neil and Donald who were respectively 23 years old and 22. The nature of this story only involves Neil and Donald, and with no disrespect to the rest of his family, they hardly feature at all. Neil and Donald were adored by their parents,and these lads wanted for nothing. They had travelled in the Hebrides and much of Scotland, and had visited Edinburgh and Glasgow, two fashionable cities of the times. They had beautiful bay horses, adorned with the most exquisite harnesses, presents from their parents. Riding breeches and knee length leather boots spoke to the sartorial elegance of the Macleod lads. With a long riding cape and a tricorn hat, many pieces of their expensive apparel could only have been bought in the big cities. For all their wealth and position, Neil and Donald were very popular with the ordinary people of the village, and were known for the helping hand they gave to anyone falling ill, or experiencing hard times.

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