A Journey by Steamer and Train, 11-13 August 1884

Transcribed from 16-year-old Margaret Ann (Maggie Ann) Morrison’s manuscript record of a journey taken in the company of ‘Pa’ – her father, Charles Morrison. In later years Maggie Ann studied music on the Continent and played professionally. She married Alexander J. Fife (d.1950), a postmaster. They lived successively in Fleetwood and Henley-on-Thames, and had three children.
Maggie Ann Morrison crop

Maggie Ann Morrison

The flirtatious Alexandra, mentioned by Maggie Ann, was the 19-year-old daughter of Kenneth Mackenzie, agent for the National Bank of Scotland, Stornoway. She married John Bullough of Meggernie in Perthshire a month after this journey, on 9 September 1884. At 46, he was 27 years her senior. Soon there were rumours of an affair with her teenage step-son . . .
In 1884 the route described was plied by the Claymore or the Clansman twice a week, leaving Stornoway every Monday and Wednesday.
Published courtesy of Alison Mein
27 June 1900.jpg

A paddle steamer in Stornoway Harbour, by Gina G. Morrison, 27 June 1900

[Monday] 11th August 1884

Left Stornoway harbour at half past 2 o’clock. Had a good passage. Very calm all the way except in the middle of the Minch where the steamer rocked a little. Read the “Christian Leader” and a book that Pa got for me in the steamer called “Martha Spreull”. Got a little seasick about 3 hours after we left.

Reached Portree at about 6 o’clock. Went on shore & up to John Robertson’s shop, he was not in and so we went with Mr Martin a minister from Leslie whom we had met in the steamer, and Mr McIntyre the U.P. Church minister in Portree, to see his church. Then we went through the town and came back to John Robertson’s shop and afterwards to his house where we had tea. The steamer rang three bells and we hurried down, but it was just moving off to anchor in the harbour. I was rather glad as I did not feel altogether right since I had been sea-sick and we were sure to get a boat later on.

Went back to John Robertson’s and played bagatelle till 12 o’clock. We then came down to the quay and caught a boat going out to the steamer. I went to bed whenever I went on board but did not sleep much.

[Tuesday] 12th August

At a quarter past 5 the steamer came away. It stopped at several places before I rose – Broadford, Kyleakin, Balmacarra, Isle Ornsay, and Armadale. I rose at about 7 o’clock and went up on deck. Took breakfast at half past 8 and after rambling about the deck for some time I went to the saloon and played on the piano all the pieces I could remember by heart. When I got tired of that I drew ladies on a paper, and finally devoted myself to reading a “Chamber’s Journal” that I got from Chirsty Robertson.


‘I drew ladies on a paper . . .’ (from a scrapbook filled by Maggie Ann and her sister Gina)

It was a delightful morning, I never enjoyed anything so much in my life. As I sat on deck reading, the “Princess Royal” passed us, the tourists on board her were all crowded at the bow, and they began cheering as they went past. Our tourists gave two or three answering cheers, and then we lost sight of the steamer. Miss Morison and her brother were on board her though I did not know at the time. Went down to dinner & then up on deck again.

We were at Eigg now, and more out in the open sea than before. The steamer began to rock the least bit, & of course I could not stand this and I began to walk up and down with Pa, that is my usual remedy when I begin to feel sea-sick. I watched Alexandra flirting with two tourists, one of them I learned afterwards was a son of McBrayne’s he is very handsome & he looked as if he would like to have a fight with the other fellow, though they evidently had been friends before they knew Alexandra. I went down to the Ladies’ cabin and lay on the sofa a while and soon began to feel all right.

It was raining a little now so I went downstairs. At one of the places we stopped at when I was down they took in some pigs to the steamer. I wasn’t aware of the fact till I heard some horrible screeching and looking out of the window I watched them hoisting up a pig. I saw them taking in the whole lot. The way they took them up was dreadful, and the noise the pigs made is something to be remembered.

I lay down for a long while and I think I was half asleep as I did not feel rounding Ardnammurchan [sic] at all, I expected a good rolling there and I was surprised when we reached Tobermory. The steamer stayed half an hour here and we got out & had a walk through the town with Miss Mitchell in the Lewis Hotel who is going to Glasgow. Tobermory is a small town with just two long streets. There is a splendid hotel just above the quay, you have to climb up some very steep steps to get to it. We heard the bell of the steamer ringing so we turned back.

We did not go away at once as the mail-boat “Pioneer” was just coming into the quay and we had to wait till the passengers and letters came out. Then we steamed off through the sound of Mull and touched at Salen, Loch Aline, and Craignure. I went down to the saloon and played some pieces on the piano. One of the tourists spoke to me and asked me a lot about music. When I stopped playing two or three others began. We were coming near Oban now, so I began to gather our things, and as it was a pour of rain I put on my waterproof. There was thunder and lightening a while before this but the sea kept quite smooth. I forgot to mention that in one place we saw an awful lot of porpoises jumping up in thousands round the steamer. Reached Oban at 8 o’clock.


SS Clydesdale, mail boat, by Gina G. Morrison, undated

I never enjoyed a sail so much in my life. I felt quite sorry to leave the steamer. The stewardess was very kind indeed. He [sic] came up on deck, and Pa went on shore, leaving me behind to mind the luggage. I waited for a good while alone. Alexandra and her father gave me goodbye as they were leaving the steamer. At last Pa came back, and told me he had been speaking to Mr Walker. I went downstairs to give Miss Brown (the stewardess) goodbye. I was so sorry I did not see Miss Mitchell. Then we took leave of Mr Martin and went on shore.

Mr Walker was on the quay. He looks just the same as when he was in Stornoway only he is “more obese”. We went up to John McGilvray’s shop but he was not in. Pa went out to look for him. While Mr Walker and I were waiting, a Stornoway man came into the shop. He did not know me but I knew him. He is a tailor, and I think Morison is his name. Pa came in and immediately recognised him. Shortly afterwards John McGilvray came in. Pa, Mr Walker and I then went walking about the town. I think it is a very pretty place; of course, as it was dark before we came in, we could not see it so well, but it looked very picturesque from the steamer. There were a great many yachts in the bay, and there was a German band playing on board one of them. The music sounded beautifully across the water. The piece that struck me most was the new German Waltz – “Weit von dir”. I must get it when we reach Glasgow.

Mr Walker took us up to his manse. His sister Kate keeps house for him. I remember he used to be continually speaking about this sister when he was in Stornoway. Mr Walker has got much more stern and solemn. He hardly made any jokes at all. I couldn’t think that this was the man who used to play “Hide and Seek” and “Blind Man’s Buff” with us through the house. We had supper with him and then went back to John McGilvray’s shop. On the way we met a gentleman who was on the steamer with us. Methven is his name. He is a traveller for the Belfast Rope Co, & belongs to Stirling. Pa deals with him. He introduced me to him on board the steamer. He told us he was going by the first train in the morning, he wanted us to go with him, but Pa wants to wait till the second train, he is afraid we will feel too knocked up to rise in time for the first. Mr Methven then made us promise to call at his house in Stirling. Pa had promised Auntie Lexie to stop at Callander two or three hours, but we cannot stop there now as Mr Methven is so pressing. We stayed in private lodgings for the night. Mr Morison was in the same house. I went to bed at half past 10 o’clock after having taken a second supper to brace me up for the journey tomorrow.

[Wednesday] 13th August

I wakened at 6 o’clock, but the clock in the room was an hour slow, and as I thought it was only 5 I went to sleep again. The servant knocked at the door twice and then came in and roused me up. We took breakfast at a little after 7 with Mr Morison. He took an enormous time to eat his breakfast, but he informed us that the doctor had told him to take his meals very slowly. We are going by the second train at 8.5. It is a beautiful morning. I am looking forward with delight to the lovely scenery on our way.

We were down at the station in good time, and while Pa was getting our tickets I saw Mr McKenzie and Alexandra and shook hands with them. They are going by this train but they change for Perth at some little station on the way. We started and passed Conal [sic], Ach-na-cloich, Taynault and Loch Awe. What a splendid place Loch Awe would be to spend the summer and autumn in! I wish I had Sir Walter Scott’s tongue to describe it. His description of Loch Katrine in the “Lady of the Lake” would suit Loch Awe pretty well, only that it did not exactly look like “a burnished sheet of living gold”. But we passed it in the morning. Passing it at noon on a hot day I have no doubt that it would look just like that. There are very high mountains about it and – “Oh, my aesthetic soul!” – the ruins of an old castle just at the water’s edge. It is called Kilchurn Castle. I have never read of it in history or old stories. There was some smoke coming from one of the chimneys.

There was a dispute in the train about the name of one of the mountains. A gentleman in the carriage said it was Ben Cruachan but Pa and I thought it was Ben Voirlich [sic]. Surely Ben Cruachan is farther away. We passed Ben More and Ben Lawyers [sic], Lock Etive, Loch Earnhead and Loch Tay. The next stations were Dalmally, Tyndrum, Earnhead, Strathyre and Callander. We stopped here for 5 mins and saw Auntie Lexie. She expected that we would stay all day and was very much disappointed as she had engaged rooms for us.

The next two stations were Doune and Dunblane. There is a small tunnel between them. The scenery about Dunblane and all along to the Bridge of Allan is very lovely. We can see the Wallace Monument as we near Stirling. We reached Stirling and joined Mr Methven waiting us at the station with a carriage to take us up to his own house. His little children (Maude, Allan, Blanche and Amy) were with him and drove up with us.

Charles, Christina and family c.1880 - Copy

Charles and Christina Morrison with their children c.1878. Maggie Ann is standing to the left of her father.


Group Photo crop - Copy Fifes

Alexander and Maggie Ann Fife, c.1914

This entry was posted in Stornoway History. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s