with Donald MacDonald (Domhnall Shàm), Horgabost
In my grandfather’s day, the cattle were in the house along with them; my great-grandmother’s sister lived beside our own house, and she had the fire in the middle of the floor. When she stoked the fire in the morning on a still day, you had to go outside, or your eyes would get filled with the smoke. There are no thatched houses in Harris now – except one that has just newly been built – but I shouldn’t think that there is a fire in the middle of the floor in that one!
The first white house that was built here was Alasdair Aonghais’s house in Manish. It was Mrs Davidson that built it after she left the Manse. They called it the New House.
The roof that we had on the house in Manish, we brought it across here with us, and we had it on the byre that we had up here. It was still as good as it was when it was put up first. It was made of oak and fastened with wooden pegs they didn’t have iron nails in these days.
I saw heather ropes being made; I could tell you now where to get the heather for them. I saw Ruairidh Dhomhnaill Ruairidh making heather ropes; they were used over the roofs of the houses and byres, to hold the thatch on.
Straw was used for the thatch on the roofs, and barley stalks, and heather as well – it was on the byres that they used the heather.
There were wells; we had Domhnall Ruairidh’s well – Fuaran a’ Ghugalaich we called it – and Fuaran a’ Phabain too. There was another in the rocks down below, on Allan’s croft, where my own grandfather was, but in a big drought in the summer, it used to go dry, but our well didn’t go dry at all.
I used to go for water to the well at Glaic an t-Seasgaich – that is out from the Manish school, out in the hill. That was when the water was scarce in the summer. They were going out to Loch a’ Chlachain too, and to Loch Manish, and to the river. There was no road then, so it was heavy going.
It was Iain mac Phadruig from Berneray who shared out the lots on the Aird Bheag and the Àird Mhòr in Manish, as they had not been shared out properly before. The shore was shared out also for the seaweed just the same as the land was. There was not enough seaweed in the Bay for everyone, and they had to go out to the Bràigh Mhòr and to the islands out from there, to cut langadal. It was heavy work, putting up the seaweed – it was so steep, especially at the far end of Manish, on the rocks there.