In the 1820’s, before Timsgarry existed, an earlier village called Erista, the ruins of which can be seen close by, was cleared of people and livestock by the landlords to make way for a farm, which drew in a higher rental. There were four such farms in Uig, at Mealister (south of Breanish), at Mangersta, at Ardroil and at Timsgarry. All four were relotted into crofts following agitation for land to be made available for soldiers returning from the fighting in WW1.
And so, in 1921, Donald Macleod, who came from 2 Enaclete, Uig moved to the croft at 2 Timsgarry with his wife Marion Macleod, a Carloway girl.
Their first task was to build a black house, the remnants of which form part of the boundary immediately behind Timsgarry byre. In the 1930s Donald built the byre, below the house, up against the bank. Subsequently three stone extensions were added onto the ends.
In 1952 he built the hip roofed bungalow alongside. He was clearly a busy man, fitting in all this building work and crofting when home from spells employed on fishing boats in the North sea. Marion, Donald’s niece and from whom we bought the house in 2011 remembers being over on holiday one summer in the 1950’s and Donald coming down the road after being away ‘on the fishing’ with a heavy rucksack on his back. Only when he emptied the contents into the kitchen sink did she realise that it was full of fresh herring.
Donald and Marion had five children and, when he died in 1957, he left his house and croft to his son Angus John Macleod, nicknamed ‘Sentry’. Sentry, who had a loud voice, was a keen crofter and worked as a postman and Harris Tweed weaver. He married Dolina who came from Borve up towards Ness but they had no children.
When Sentry died in 1987, his wife continued to live in the house with his sister Christina, who worked as a cook in the school. Our daughters, Linda and Sofie had fond memories of her as ‘Cookag’ when they were at primary school.
After Dolina and Christina passed away towards the end of the 1990s, we bought the house in 2011. It was ruinous and we stripped out all of the inside and completely refitted it.
Having lived in Uig since 1981, we are concerned with the ongoing population decline and how so many houses are being turned into holiday homes, so we decided to let it on a permanent basis to people who want to live in the area, preferably young families.
However, by the time we’d finished refurbishing the house five years ago, the barn roof was collapsing. Too small for a family, we were convinced that it would make an ideal self-catering house and embarked on designing and rebuilding the byre.
Because it had been built as a series of extensions at different times and with different roof heights, materials and pitches, we decided to replicate the rooflines. The design was undertaken in conjunction with architect Stuart Bagshaw, with whom I used to work and who now runs a practice in Stornoway.
As the site was very tight, with little building or storage space we rebuilt the studio during the first summer whilst designing the rest and applying for the various permissions and warrants. This was subsequently used as a shelter for the workmen and storage for the building materials.
Undoubtedly there is a good view across the road. The main thrust of the design was that we wanted to maximise this, ideally taking in the panorama from bed in the morning. But the building is right on the road so, to retain a level of privacy, we raised the floor level and thus the window thresholds. The front to the building we made semi-circular to allow a panoramic series of windows. The conical roof seemed to follow naturally.
We like corrugated iron and used that for the roof of the studio, but for the bedroom extension we decided to use aluminium sheeting that is less prone to corrosion. Aluminium sheeting has an unfortunate history on the Hebrides of fixings pulling right through the sheets but, after much research and expense we sourced more robust washers and bolts and then ‘fixed it to death’.
We had hoped to keep the original walls but, once work commenced large areas just fell down, and it was necessary to demolish and rebuild most of the masonry.
The foundations, masonry, joinery, roofing, electrical and plumbing were all undertaken by Uig men and the workmanship is a credit to them. I did plenty of labouring, ordering and cleaning up. Apart from the septic tank excavation done by JCB, all work including pipe laying was undertaken by hand. My hobby is woodwork and I made most of the oak used in the finishing, cupboards and shutters.
Furniture is either refurbished Victorian and Georgian bought from auctions in Edinburgh, from our family home or built from scratch in my workshop.
When we were pulling apart the old byre, as always there were fascinating finds from previous users. I incorporated these into an artwork which won the prize at the Grinneas annual art exhibition for local artists in the An Lanntair art gallery in Stornoway in 2017 and now hangs on the wall of the byre. All of the names of the Macleods who lived in number two are there, together with some great tools and tackle and a Gaelic bible from the old byre. The rope is from the ropeworks that used to be in Stornoway.