Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bhalamus

Another stop John Randal and I made on the trip with Lewis Mackenzie on July 18 was Bhalamus. This remote settlement had been the headquarters of the large Pairc sheep-farm. But its history dates well before those times, as every available bit of ground is covered with the remnants of lazybeds, and there is an old burial mound near the farmhouse.


As recounted in Adam Nicolson's Sea Room, in the 1840s Bhalamus was the home of the Stewart brothers. The managers of the estate that also included the Shiants. The Stewarts were in charge of clearing people from the estate, and they started with the Balamaus area. They must have enjoyed their work, for in 1842 they moved to the west of Harris where they cleared people out of Scarista.

The tide was low, so Lewis dropped us off on a small peninsula that stuck out into the loch west of Bhalamus House. It was a slow walk around to the house, which, ignoring some of its past, looked beautiful in the morning light. A light wind came and went, and so the midges and clegs came and went.




The slate roof of the house was completely gone. Shards of it littered the ground around the house, and its inside was cluttered with fallen timbers. Some future winter storm will bring down a gable, and then the whole thing will collapse.





Remnants of whisky bottles were here and there, suggesting that the occasional ceilidh still occurs in this remote spot.


The house had also been the home at times of the estate gamekeeper. A Robert Dempster was gamekeeper here from 1911 to 1927 (see this link). And it was interesting to find that a memorial had been placed here the month before to a gamekeeper named John Mackenzie and his wife Jean Dempster.


Before leaving we crossed back to the burial ground. A large mound with a few stones here and there, none with any inscriptions. A lot of history here. Sadly, most of it forgotten and buried.

Burial mound

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