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Malcolm MacAskill was born in 1828, the son of John MacAskill and bardess Mary Morrison of Lag a’ Chealla. In 1850 his father obtained the newly lotted croft 7 Ruisgarry (Lag a' Chealla).
Malcolm MacAskill was a renowned bard and fiddler, and many of his poems and songs have been published in Orain Chaluim, which has an extensive introduction by the editor Alick Morrison. This gives a fascinating insight into life on Berneray:
At the time, Berneray teemed with life, revolving round the kindly, informal and cultural ceilidh.'S e daoine core bha comhnaidh riamh ann; Bha tlachd 'nan comhradh gu stoda rianal; A dheanadh spors 's nach biodh go no miothlachd Do dh'aon neach beo 's tha cuid mhor air triall dhiubh.
In these ceilidhs, the young bard imbibed the folklore, poetry, music wit and humour of the Gael. He also attended the local SPCK school under Ranald Matheson and proved himself an apt pupil in Gaelic and English. He learned to handle boats and fared forth on the broad waters of the Sound of Harris to hunt, fish and even to collect birds' eggs.
A man of many occupations, he worked on a farm before serving for some years as secretary to Donald MacRae, Fear Hushinish, during which time they visited England. Malcolm was also employed in the building of Amhuinnsuidhe Castle and the school on Scarp. At the time of the 1861 census he was in Meavaig, Harris visiting his friend Norman Paterson. In that census Malcolm is described as a clerk and storekeeper.
In 1866 Malcolm married Ann MacAulay at Finsbay Harris. They became cottars at Lag a' Chealla, before moving to Baile. They had seven children together, of whom four survived to adulthood. Following his death, the house at Baile was passed to his widowed daughter Mary.
Malcolm described himself as a general merchant from 1869 to 1871, then variously as a cottar, labourer and fisherman. By 1876 he was acting as assistant registrar to Donald MacKay before finally taking over the role of registrar himself in 1895, which he kept until his death in 1903.