Angus Macdonald (1836-74) was an enterprising shopkeeper in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, for a brief period during the 1860s and the early 1870s. From 7 May 1864 until 1873, shortly before his death from phthisis (tuberculosis), he kept a ‘Cash Book’ which also served as a succinct diary. Extracts have been kindly shared by Angus’s direct descendants Catherine Beveridge and Ann Shuttleworth (née McDonald).
Angus came from Corry (Shieldaig) on Loch Torridon on the west coast of the Scottish mainland. He served his apprenticeship as a salesman with the draper and grocer Murdo Macdonald, his uncle, at 7 Francis Street in Stornoway (Census 1861). In June 1861 Angus entered partnership with Charles Morrison as general merchants at 7 North Beach Street, Stornoway. Both men – young and unmarried – lodged at the property, with their landlady Betsy Macdonald. Betsy was not related to Angus despite their shared surname.
In May 1864 Macdonald & Morrison was dissolved, probably because Angus was about to get married and had ambitious plans of his own. While Charles – who was disappointed by the dissolution of the partnership – moved out to establish his own business, Angus’s shop remained at 7 North Beach Street for some time. Initially, Angus ran it with the help of his brother Murdo. After his marriage to Eliza Mackenzie of Valtos (Balallan) Angus left his lodgings to set up home on Cromwell Street, moving (‘flitting’) again in April and November 1866.
Angus wanted to expand his business. In 1866, having failed to buy the building next to his existing shop, he bought 18 North Beach Street. He also tried and failed to purchase the Sailors’ Home on Point Street. This was bought instead by Alexander Mackenzie (‘Alic Simon’) and later became home to Charles Morrison & Son Ltd. Shortly after this setback, in 1867, Angus built a new house to the rear of his shop, facing Bank Street. The family, their salesmen and servants all lived in this house (Census 1871). Additional work was carried out to the ‘back house’ (a common term in Stornoway for houses positioned behind the frontage of a feu) in 1872.
The ‘Cash Book’ includes some juicy Stornoway gossip, such as ‘Mrs Campbell delivered yesterday. Thomson Bank Inspector is the Father’ (April 1867). With remarkable concision it records the weather, the fishing, the general economy (so dependent on a good herring fishing!), journeys to and from the island, maritime tragedies, births, deaths and marriages. The extracts below relate mainly to Angus’s shop and building projects.
Monday 9 May 1864. Commenced Stocktaking on 1st. Inst. Took delivery Frid. last McD & Morrison.
Saturday 10 September 1864. Married at Valtos House on Thur 8th last by Rev. J. McRae.
Saturday 17 September 1864. At 8pm tide even higher than last night. Had to fill up my shop door to keep the sea out.
Tuesday 27 September 1864. Chas. Morrison married at 7a.m. & left per St. [by the steamer]
Friday 6 January 1865. Blew a hurricane last night. Mr J. McKenzie’s grand new house very much damaged.
Saturday 7 January 1865. The most of the Stornoway houses are very much shattered by the last gale.
Friday 17 February 1865. Robert Morrison’s stock for sale.
Saturday 18 February 1865. Offered £88 for R. Morrison’s inventory £99 5s. 4d.
Tuesday 28 February 1865. My offr. of ten others acceptd for R. Morrison’s stock.
Wednesday 1 March 1865. Opened Robert’s shop. [Robert Morrison’s shop was at 9 North Beach Street, next door bar one to Angus’s own shop]
Monday 25 September 1865. Charles’ baby buried. [Perhaps the first child of Charles and Christina Morrison]
Thursday 2 November 1865. Miss Stewart Morrison selling her furniture. [The sale was on 3 November. Possibly refers to Miss Anna Stewart Morrison, Immersligach]
Wednesday 6 December 1865. Mr McDonald’s shop closed. I am taking stock for him.
Thursday 14 December 1865. Sold “Wee Tot” to Allan McDougall for £15 10/-
Friday 23 March 1866. My offer for P. Clark’s house declined. [Peter Clark was the parochial schoolmaster. His wife kept a shop at 8 North Beach Street: next door to Angus’s shop, explaining why he wanted the property so badly. It was probably part of his expansion plans. By 1871 (Census) the Clarks had moved to the Temperance Hotel, 3-5 North Beach (the house at the end of the street, adjoining the Old Sail Loft), where Mrs Clark was manageress. After Peter died in 1872, the Clarks emigrated to New Zealand.]
Friday 30 March 1866. Took Miss Stewart Morrison House at £18 Stg. per annum for 1 Year.
Friday 12 April 1866. Flitting to Miss Morrison.
Saturday 14 April 1866. We feel thankful we have left our persecuting landlady [i.e. on Cromwell St, not Betsy Macdonald]. We can breathe freely now.
Wednesday 9 May 1866. Took five Lodgers for the fishing season.
Friday 25 May 1866. The first of the quay Material come. [Probably for the construction of Esplanade Quay, on West Beach]
Tuesday 11 September 1866. Offered £350 for Clark’s house, offer only binding for this week only.
Saturday 15 September 1866. My offer abandoned for Clark’s house.
Friday 5 October 1866. I am now resolved to purchase Clark’s house & by God’s help to build very soon.
Saturday 13 October 1866. Wrote the Scot. Prop. Invest. Coy. for their Prosps [Prospectus] offered for Sailor’s Home [sic] £70.
Friday 26 October 1866. My offer for Sailors home refused, had a long consultation with Napier Campbell regarding the house. [The Sailors’ Home is the building now occupied by Digby Chick]
Wednesday 31 October 1866. I concluded I can’t buy “Clark’s” house after all my trouble and expense.
Monday 19 November 1866. Bought NB [18 North Beach] house at last for £350 Stg.
Thursday 22 November 1866. Commenced flitting at 5pm & finished at ¼ 11pm.
Friday 23 November 1866. Removed to our own house & thanks to God for it.
Saturday 1 December 1866. Paid Miss Betsy £15.10 for Mos. Rent. [For the shop at 7 North Beach]
Friday 14 December 1866. Furnished & Stocked my own Shop.
Tuesday 18 December 1866. Opened my own shop & drew £4 & only 50/- here.
Friday 26 December 1866. My offer of Sailor’s Home refused.
Saturday 5 January 1867. Boys sliding on ice across the bay.
Saturday 12 January 1867. Mrs Russell died 8 a.m. [Georgina Russell, née Gerrie, wife of Matthew Russell and sister-in-law to Charles Morrison]
Tuesday 5 February 1867. Received my lease for 3 years for Miss B. Shop @ £29.
Tuesday 12 February 1867. Got plans of house drawn by Thomson.
Wednesday 13 February 1867. Measuring all day. Submitted plan of intended building to Sir James.
Monday 18 February 1867. Alic Simon cleaning for the foundation on Sailors Home.
Tuesday 19 February 1867. Alic McKenzie found. laid.
Friday 22 February 1867. Amity cleared away last night. [The brig ‘Amity’ was wrecked in 1845, moored opposite the Old Custom House (now Amity House) and used as a quay for many years. By the 1860s it was quite rotten.]
Monday 25 February 1867. Pulling down Mutual between A. McKenzie & Self. I agreed with him to build for £6. Say £3 each.
Thursday 18 April 1867. Aler. McKenzie slating his house.
Monday 22 April 1867. First call of St [steamer] at the new Quay.
Tuesday 23 April 1867. Alic McKenzie flitting.
Monday 5 August 1867. Paid £87.10 being first of new house & 8/7 interest being 36 days past due.
Friday 16 August 1867. Commenced Stripping Shop.
Thursday 22 August 1867. Laid the Foundation of new gable.
Thursday 5 September 1867. Called on Sir Jas. in the Castle, he received me most kindly.
Monday 16 September 1867. Had to take out all the joists & pull down almost the whole of the front wall.
Thursday 19 September 1867. Put up Shop window & Door lintels.
Friday 20 September 1867. Put in low joists.
Saturday 5 Oct 1867. Finished slating house.
Friday 18 October 1867. Put in the windows.
Mon 21 October 1867. Paving in front of house.
Wednesday 12 February 1868. Fitted grates & put roaring fires in them, they went well.
Thursday 13 February 1868. Putting furniture to new house.
Monday 17 February 1868. Into our own house & thank God for it.
Friday 21 February 1868. Commenced mason work of quay. I supply the Masons and some more of the Labourers.
Monday 13 July 1868. Paid 2nd instalment of my house on Saturday.
Saturday 25 July 1868. Old shop and stock advertised for sale.
Monday 9 November 1868. Sir Jas’ 25 Marriage Anniversary. The Town illuminated. The Cromwell Street Fountain presented to the town by Mrs Perceval. [Mrs Perceval (d.1876), mother-in-law of Sir James Matheson, proprietor of Lewis]
Friday 29 January 1869. Highest tide ever Seen here, it was 3ft in the old & about 6 deep in the new shop, all the So. Beach embankment carried away.
Saturday 30 January 1869. Morning tide higher than ever. We have a good deal damaged.
Wednesday 24 February 1869. Preparing to build a Store in the Close.
Monday 1 March 1869. Settled with Alic Simon for Mutual Wall.
Saturday 6 March 1869. Laid the found. of a back store the length of the whole feu 46ft.
Wednesday 24 March 1869. I am about to dispose of old Shop & Stock at 10% less than cost.
Saturday 27 March 1869. Commenced Stock taking in Old Shop for McLean & McIver.
Friday 2 April 1869. Delivered the Stock in old shop to McIver & McLean.
Wednesday 9 June 1869. Miss Mc Donald (my old landlady) found dead in bed.
Friday 23 July 1869. After whales from 9am to 6pm landed them at Broadbay.
Saturday 24 July 1869. 184 whales landed. Sold by auction, realised £549 11/-. Great excitement about the proceeds.
Thursday 26 August 1869. Thank God, the 3rd instalment of Property paid, only £87.10 to pay.
Friday 12 November 1869. Mrs McDonald’s arch door locked & couldn’t get to Store 10¼a.m.
Friday 30 September 1870. Concert in hall to improve Sailor’s Home at the instance of Admiral Sir Wm. Hall.
Friday 27 January 1871. D. Munro, R. G. McKenzie & Morrison (Ropes) are Police Commissioners. [although Charles Morrison was associated with rope more than any other item sold in his shop, in this instance ‘Ropes’ was probably Alexander Morrison, ropeworker, Bayhead (ex inf C. Beveridge)]
Thusday 9 February 1871. Building a large Post Office on North Beach Street.
Monday 13 February. Offered £13 rent for Thos. Reid’s yard and old house.
Thursday 27 April 1871. Took possession of T. Reid’s house and close.
Friday 6 October 1871. A Party of Royal Artillery putting down the telegraph poles from Bayble to Harris.
Thursday 2 November 1871. Paid last instalment of £87.10 for Property & May God Spare us Long to enjoy it.
Thursday 18 January 1872. The Ullapool pier finished.
Friday 16 February 1872. John Nicolson late Callanish died.
Friday 5 April 1872. Mixing lime for back house. [Angus was building once again to the rear of his property]
Tuesday 7 May 1872. Smallpox in John McKenzie’s shop next door to us. May God preserve us. [John McKenzie died the following day]
Saturday 11 May 1872. New Post Office opened.
Monday 13 May 1872. Serjeant Craig took Temperance Hotel. [i.e. he replaced the Clarks, see above]
Saturday 29 June 1872. Down at Knock seeing the laying of the Telegraph cable.
Tuesday 19 November 1872. Dismantling shop for new addition.
Saturday 23 November 1872. Busy about pulling down back wall for addition to shop.
Monday 2 December 1872. Got in the beam in new house.
Monday 9 December 1872. Mrs McDougall died at 2am yesterday. [The first wife of Allan McDougall, see below]
Monday 16 December 1872. flooring attics.
Thursday 27 February 1873. Nicholson’s Instition [sic] opened.
Angus Macdonald died in 1874. A year later his widow, Eliza, married Allan McDougall, a fishcurer. They had a daughter, Mary Elizabeth McDougall, in 1876. Eliza had died by 1881. In that year one of the children from her first marriage was working in the Lewis Hotel; the others lived with their maternal grandmother in Torridon. The McDougalls had moved to Glasgow.
It remains uncertain when Charles Morrison moved into 5 Bank Street, but he appears to have been settled there, with his family and shop assistants, by 1871 (Census 1871: ‘6 Point Street Lane’; next entry is 5 Bank Street). He presumable paid rent to the property owner, ‘Alic Simon’ Mackenzie. Thus Angus and Charles were next-door-neighbours for a few years prior to Angus’s death. Perhaps further information will emerge to shed more light on the history of these old Stornoway shops.