Past & Present

Hùisinis Once More

Hùisinis 58 North.jpgHùisinis    (Photo: 58 North)

Eighty years after it had first been cleared, Hùisnis was resettled once more. Even when other villages were repopulated in 1885, Hùisinis was withheld. The factor for North Harris, a Robert Matheson, gave evidence to the Royal Commission of 1892. This was one of a series of government enquiries towards the close of the 1800s, investigating the causes and potential solutions for the destitution and suffering of crofters and cottars, which had by now become all too prevalent throughout the north and west coast.

Four Scarp families, the missionary, the merchant and two cottars had by this point been given access to a limited amount of arable land on the north side of the Hùisinis machair, but that was it. Robert Matheson argued against allowing the resettlement of Hùisinis, on the grounds that the mutton from the sheep flock, then numbering about two hundred and forty animals, was required for Lady Scott and her friends when they visited the island. The fact was that Hùisinis farm was not worth what it once was to the proprietor; the British market for wool and mutton was swamped by imports from Australia and New Zealand in the 1880s.

Hùisinis was resettled in 1900, the year the estate passed to Sir Samuel Scott, then twenty-seven years old and a Conservative Member of Parliament for Marylebone West, a seat he held for over twenty years until the constituency was abolished at the 1918 general election.

The people of Dìreasgal were moved to Hùisnis because their presence was preventing the deer from seeking shelter on lower ground in winter. The proximity of the settlement to a salmon river was also not welcome. In turn, the people were experiencing difficulty with deer raiding their crops.

The families who moved were those of Norman Macdonald , Ann Maclennan and John Macdonald. They planted crops at Hùisinis that spring and moved there in July. Initially they built bothies and funds were given by the proprietor to help with the cost of building the ‘white’ houses, the exteriors of which were built before the end of that year.

By Joan Cumming, 2014

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