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Kenneth Nicolson

Kenneth Nicolson

Kenneth (1843-1929) was a son of Murdo Nicolson and Catherine Macleod, 11 Calbost. He attended school for a while in the Tolsta Chaolais area where his grandmother, Anna-an-Dhomhnuill, came from. He was a good scholar and he could write letters in both Gaelic and English.

In Lochs, in 1867, he married Catherine Macdonald, 9 Habost. Kenneth and Catherine settled at 11 Calbost and they had eleven children.

He followed his father in operating the mill on the Calbost Stream which ran through his croft. He replaced the millstones with larger and heavier ones that came from a quarry at Carloway. Kenneth was a fisherman and a weaver as well as being a miller. It was said that he took 140lbs boll of flour or oatmeal, alternatively - home with him from the fishing every Saturday when his family was young.

Weaving was done on the "Beart-bheag" small loom until the 1890s and Kenneth was taught the skill of weaving by his daughter Isabella on the "Beart-bheag". The first "Beart-mhor" big wooden loom was introduced to Lewis by James Mackenzie, "Seumas 'an Thaboist", 4 Gravir in the late 1880s or early 1890s and some of them are still used in the Hebrides.

Kenneth was a self taught joiner and he set about to copy James Mackenzie's new loom. Apparently Mr Mackenzie was not pleased at the thought of competition and would not let him into his loom shed. Kenneth ran into difficulty when he could not find heddles, reeds, shuttles, etc but Mr Mackenzie would not give him any information. Kenneth responded by saying; "Chan eil fios agam nach dean mi chuis" - I don't know that I will not manage, and he advertised for heddles, etc in the Highland News and he received many offers of loom parts.

He was working with his new loom in the early 1890s and he took it with him when the family moved to Stornoway in 1902. They lived at 9 Bayhead Street and Kenneth did his weaving on Point Street.

 At that time Harris Tweed was entirely a rural cottage industry and most of the Tweed was done in Lochs and Uig and Kenneth's friends felt that he would not get enough weaving work in Stornoway to keep him occupied. There were no mills in Stornoway and Kenneth was known as, "Am Breabadair" which indicated that weavers were few in numbers, if any at all in town at that time.

He was about 59 years old when he moved to Stornoway and it must have been about that time that he emigrated to Canada but the Canadian Emigration Authorities refused him entry on the grounds of his age. He was sent back to Britain. An Irish foreman who saw him at the Canadian Emigration Offices lamented the fact that he was not allowed into Canada because he said, "he could do with a strong Highlander like that." 



Title: Kenneth Nicolson
Record Type: People
Gaelic Name: Coinneach Mhurchaidh
Date of Birth: 1843
Date of Death: 1929
Date of Marriage: 1867
Occupation: Miller, Fisherman, Weaver
Sex: Male
Bk Reference: CEP 2463
Record Maintained By: CEP
Subject Id: 24523