Victorian Eigg was in the hands of the MacPherson family. Find out more about this family in our new page the Eigg Macphersons.
Victorian life on Eigg
by Clyde Wallace, P7, Eigg Primary School
Last summer in 2016, we were studying Victorians as our main topic at Eigg Primary School. We learned about Victorian food, games, cotton mills and other jobs, school life and more.
I did my own project on what Victorian life on Eigg was like by looking at the census records from Victorian times. The records are kept in the archive in the Learning Centre, so I could look at them whilst at school. I found out several interesting things that I hadn’t known about before.
A time of great changes
In Victorian Times, from 1841-1891 Eigg changed greatly. For instance the places where people lived and the population changed because of the Clearances. The jobs and amount of families also changed as new ideas and inventions were made.
The population was much bigger in 1841 than in 1891 and about five times the amount of people now! By 1891 the population had shrunk by 200. This may have been because of the Clearances and people being shipped off. Also the amount of families was practically halved, probably for the same reason the population shrunk. The size of families changed as well. [A big impact would have been the Potato famine of 1844-5, when the entire potato crop on which people depended for their subsistence rotted in the ground. This caused a lot of hardship through disease like Tuberculosis, Diphteria and Scarlet fever which killed the old and the young.Poverty also caused people to move away to look for work, ed ]
In 1841 the families were bigger ranging from about seven-fifteen family members! Some of them were smaller and only about two-five people in one. Whereas in 1891 the average amount of people in one family was right down to four-seven.
Roughly the average age of people on Eigg in 1841 and 1891 was 0-20. Although in 1891 less people were below 21. This was probably because there were bigger families in 1841 in which a lot of people would have just been born and would be between 0 and 20 years old. Just as the number of people changed, so did the jobs.
There were a lot more jobs in 1891 as new inventions and ideas were made. Many of these jobs were different to 1841 like shoemakers, dressmakers, weavers or even boat builders. So perhaps some people had more money to spend.
I think the most common job in 1841 and 1891 was crofter. In 1841 there were 43 and in 1891 there were 24. This was probably the most common occupation, because people were poor and being crofters, they could live off their croft.
Although we would have hoped there would be less paupers in 1891, there were actually more. Perhaps this was because of the Clearances. There were fewer servants in 1891 but more types of them.
In 1841 people lived in Lower Grulin, Upper Grulin, Galmisdale, Sandavore, Sandaveg, Bray, Keill, Laig, Howlin and Cleadale. Whereas by 1891 people only lived in Howlin, Cleadale, Laig, Kildonnan, Sandaveg, Sandavore, Galmisdale and there was only a two-person family in Grulin. The number of places changed, maybe because the clearances cleared out Grulin. Kildonnan was probably the new name for Keill and there was probably no one living in Bray and it might have become part of Kildonnan.[Lower Grulin, Sandaveg, Bray, Howlin disappear from the census, ed]
Impact of the Clearances
Eigg certainly did change in the Victorian Era. The main cause of change was the Clearances [in Grulin, and the potato famine, Ed]. I think this was because Grulin was wiped out, people were shipped off, and people not shipped off had to move, usually to Cleadale and away from the island to find work [many women went away to work in lowland farms, as servants in the city and also as herring gutters and packers. Men went away to work in Glasgow, in the trams or the Govan shipyards, ed] and some became paupers or maybe died. However some survived and went on to work for the Landlord or for themselves as crofters, fishermen or tradesmen.