1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lewis-with-Harris
LEWIS-WITH-HARRIS, the most northerly island of the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. It is sometimes called the Long Island and is 24 m. from the nearest point of the mainland, from which it is separated by the strait called The Minch. It is 60 m. long and has an extreme breadth of 30 m., its average breadth being 15 m. It is divided into two portions by a line roughly drawn between Loch Resort on the west and Loch Seaforth on the east, of which the larger or more northerly portion, known as Lewis (pron. Lews), belongs to the county of Ross and Cromarty and the lesser, known as Harris, to Inverness-shire. The area of the whole island is 492,800 acres, or 770 sq. m., of which 368,000 acres belong to Lewis. In 1891 the population of Lewis was 27,045, of Harris 3681; in 1901 the population of Lewis was 28,357, of Harris 3803, or 32,160 for the island, of whom 17,175 were females, 11,209 spoke Gaelic only, and 17,685 both Gaelic and English. There is communication with certain ports of the Western Highlands by steamer via Stornoway every week—oftener during the tourist and special seasons—the steamers frequently calling at Loch Erisort, Loch Sealg, Ardvourlie, Tarbert, Ardvey, Rodel and The Obe. The coast is indented to a remarkable degree, the principal sea-lochs in Harris being East and West Loch Tarbert; and in Lewis, Loch Seaforth, Loch Erisort and Broad Bay (or Loch a Tuath) on the east coast and Loch Roag and Loch Resort on the west. The mainland is dotted with innumerable fresh-water lakes. The island is composed of gneiss rocks, excepting a patch of granite near Carloway, small bands of intrusive basalt at Gress and in Eye Peninsula and some Torridonian sandstone at Stornoway, Tong, Vatskir and Carloway. Most of Harris is mountainous, there being more than thirty peaks above 1000 ft. high. Lewis is comparatively flat, save in the south-east, where Ben More reaches 1874 ft., and in the south-west, where Mealasbhal (1885) is the highest point; but in this division there are only eleven peaks exceeding 1000 ft. in height. The rivers are small and unimportant. The principal capes are the Butt of Lewis, in the extreme north, where the cliffs are nearly 150 ft. high and crowned with a lighthouse, the light of which is visible for 19 m.; Tolsta Head, Tiumpan Head and Cabag Head, on the east; Renish Point, in the extreme south; and, on the west, Toe Head and Gallon Head. The following inhabited islands in the Inverness-shire division belong to the parish of Harris: off the S.W. coast, Bernera (pop. 524), Ensay, Killigray and Pabbay; off the W. coast, Scarp (160), Soay and Tarrensay (72); off the E. coast, Scalpa (587) and Scotasay. Belonging to the county of Ross and Cromarty are Great Bernera (580) to the W. of Lewis, in the parish of Uig, and the Shiant Isles, about 21 m. S. of Stornoway, in the parish of Lochs, so named from the number of its sea lochs and fresh-water lakes. The south-eastern base of Broad Bay is furnished by the peninsula of Eye, attached to the main mass by so slender a neck as seemingly to be on the point of becoming itself an island. Much of the surface of both Lewis and Harris is composed of peat and swamp; there are scanty fragments of an ancient forest. The rainfall for the year averages 41.7 in., autumn and winter being very wet. Owing to the influence of the Gulf Stream, however, the temperature is fairly high, averaging for the year 46.6° F., for January 39.5° F. and for August 56.5° F.
The economic conditions of the island correspond with its physical conditions. The amount of cultivable land is small and poor. Sir James Matheson (1796-1878), who purchased the island in 1844, is said to have spent nearly £350,000 in reclamation and improvements. Barley and potatoes are the chief crops. A large number of black cattle are reared and some sheep-farming is carried on in Harris. Kelp-making, once important, has been extinct for many years. Harris has obtained great reputation for tweeds. The cloth has an aroma of heather and peat, and is made in the dwellings of the cotters, who use dyes of long-established excellence. The fisheries are the principal mainstay of the people. In spite of the very considerable reductions in rent effected by the Crofters’ Commission (appointed in 1886) and the sums expended by government, most of the crofters still live in poor huts amid dismal surroundings. The island affords good sporting facilities. Many of the streams abound with salmon and trout; otters and seals are plentiful, and deer and hares common; while bird life includes grouse, ptarmigan, woodcock, snipe, heron, widgeon, teal, eider duck, swan and varieties of geese and gulls. There are many antiquarian remains, including duns, megaliths, ruined towers and chapels and the like. At Rodel, in the extreme south of Harris, is a church, all that is left of an Augustinian monastery. The foundation is Norman and the superstructure Early English. On the towers are curious carved figures and in the interior several tombs of the Macleods, the most remarkable being that of Alastair (Alexander), son of William Macleod of Dunvegan, dated 1528. The monument, a full-length recumbent effigy of a knight in armour, lies at the base of a tablet in the shape of an arch divided into compartments, in which are carved in bas-relief, besides the armorial bearings of the deceased and a rendering of Dunvegan castle, several symbolical scenes, one of which exhibits Satan weighing in the balance the good and evil deeds of Alastair Macleod, the good obviously preponderating. Stornoway, the chief town (pop. 3852) is treated under a separate heading. At Callernish, 13 m. due W. of Stornoway, are several stone circles, one of which is probably the most perfect example of so-called “Druidical” structures in the British Isles. In this specimen the stones are huge, moss-covered, undressed blocks of gneiss. Twelve of such monoliths constitute the circle, in the centre of which stands a pillar 17 ft. high. From the circle there runs northwards an avenue of stones, comprising on the right-hand side nine blocks and on the left-hand ten. There also branch off from the circle, on the east and west, a single line of four stones and, on the south, a single line of five stones. From the extreme point of the south file to the farther end of the avenue on the north is a distance of 127 yds. and the width from tip to tip of the east and west arms is 41 yds. Viewed from the north end of the avenue, the design is that of a cross. The most important fishery centre on the west coast is Carloway, where there is the best example of a broch, or fort, in the Hebrides. Rory, the blind harper who translated the Psalms into Gaelic, was born in the village. Tarbert, at the head of East Loch Tarbert, is a neat, clean village, in communication by mail-car with Stornoway. At Coll, a few miles N. by E. of Stornoway, is a mussel cave; and at Gress, 2 m. or so beyond in the same direction, there is a famous seals’ cave, adorned with fine stalactites. Port of Ness, where there is a harbour, is the headquarters of the ling fishery. Loch Seaforth gave the title of earl to a branch of the Mackenzies, but in 1716 the 5th earl was attainted for Jacobitism and the title forfeited. In 1797 Francis Humberston Mackenzie (1754-1815), chief of the Clan Mackenzie, was created Lord Seaforth and Baron Mackenzie of Kintail, and made colonel of the 2nd battalion of the North British Militia, afterwards the 3rd battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders. The 2nd battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders was formerly the Ross-shire Buffs, which was raised in 1771.