Vuia was occupied during the first half of the 19th century; records give four families living there in 1807, those of Murdo Maclean, Neil Macleod (ex Mangersta), Norman Nicolson and Roderick Stewart, each paying a rent of £4.0.9d annually. By 1841 there were seven families and some 46 people living there, but it was cleared shortly afterwards and has not been occupied since then.
The following was written by Maggie Smith for Hebridean Connections.
Life on the island of Vuia Mòr was hard, with little fertile land and no safe anchorage. The peats were cut and harvested in Drovinish and taken home by rowing boat or sail. Boats had to be beached after each fishing trip.
Amongst the inhabitants were the family of Neil Macleod, who had found refuge in Vuia Mhor after being cleared from the old village of Mangersta. Neil was married to Catherine Mackenzie of Kirkibost, Bernera and they had twelve children, ten of whom emigrated to Cape Breton between 1821-1826. Kenneth, one of the sons, emigrated in 1826 with his wife Ann Macleod from Balallan, and their child died on the long sea voyage across the Atlantic. They managed to keep the child’s death a secret so that the child would not be buried at sea.
A grandson of Neil Macleod, ‘An Og (John, son of John), lived on Vuia and was courting Ann Maclennan from Reef. It is said he swam across to Reef regularly with his dry clothing strapped to his head.
The islanders fished to sustain the families and paid their rent by harvesting the sea-kelp with the substantial profit from the sales going to the landowner. When the landlord’s greedy eye focused on sheep rearing the community was sacrificed and scattered to the four winds.
The land officer evicted the inhabitants from the seven homes and forty-six souls young and old came ashore in the village of Geshader. The strong swimmer John Macleod married his Ann in 1847 and lived in Geshader, having been cleared from the island along with his mother and sister. They lived there as cottars and the ruins of the house can be seen to this day at No 2. The Martin and the Smith family became cottars on No 10 Geshader and later emigrated. The Mathesons went to Ungeshader, then some emigrated and others went to Brue. The MacArthurs settled south of Enaclete at a place still known as Buaile Mhic Artair.
Tales of the eviction were repeated in oral tradition and are expressed in the poetry:
‘S iomadh athair agus màthairThe land officer responsible for the evictions, Kenneth Stewart, tacksman of Hacklete, went to Canada and fell on hard times. According to tradition, he was a tramp and went to the door of a house and knocked. The girl who opened the door gave him a piece of bread and after he had eaten she enquired if he had enjoyed this morsel. He replied that he truly had and was very grateful. She then proceeded to tell him that he had been responsible for the eviction of herself and her family from Vuia Mhor!
Bha gu làr a ’sileadh dheòir
Mar chaidh a fuadach as an àite
Far an deach an àrach òg.
Chuala sinn e bho ar cairdean
Mu’s do dh’fhag iad tìr nam beò
Gu’n ghabh mallachdan an àite
Air na dh’fhàsaich Bhuidha Mhòr
À Amhran Lord Lever
le Domhnall Donn, Donald Maciver Cnip
Cha robh dùil agad fhads a bha thu gam fhuadach à BhuidhaThough she had only been a very young girl at the time of the eviction, she recognised the man at her door. She then urged him to leave before her husband came home. She believed he would murder, either he who carried out the evictions, or her for showing compassion to the man who had evicted the families so brutally years before.
Gum biodh tu lorg aoigheach orm ann an Canada.
(Copyright: Hebridean Connections)