Tragedy in Pabbay.
A story from ‘Traditions of the Western Isles’ by Donald Morrison cooper in Stornoway 1787 – 1834.
In the Fifteenth Century, MacLeod, Laird of Harris and Dunvegan, happened to go to the Island of Pabbay, one of the isles attached to the Harris Estate.
The proprietor in question was a young man at this time. He had previously heard about a Peter Morrison, one of the tenants of Pabbay and reputed to be a clever young man.
MacLeod gathered all the young men of Pabbay into one house and said to them: ‘I should like you to wrestle for a while but be sure not to hurt one another.’ He ordered a dram for them and they began to wrestle.
Peter Morrison proved to be the best at the feat of wrestling. The laird them brought the young man along with him to a certain house and gave him some drink, saying to Peter Morrison: ‘Well Peter, will you try myself at the late feat.’
‘I am not willing to wrestle with you, my laird, for my temper will not permit me to yield to any man, without that man’s strength compels me.’
The laird replied: ‘Well, Peter, I commend that principle in you and though you and I should try it, be sure and hold to that principle.’
The laird and Peter fell to it and Morrison had soon the laird down upon a bed. The laird, it is said, took no offence at this failure on his part, but one of his party present, drew his sword and plunged it through Morrisons bowels, thinking thus to gain the laird’s goodwill and approbation, for his savage conduct.
The laird, seeing Morrison fall dead, ordered the men present to catch the murderer who had run out as soon as he had perpetrated the revolting deed. He was however, pursued closely, till at last he jumped headlong over a precipice to the sea, where he was drowned.
The worthy laird was both vexed and affronted on account of the late fatal occurrence and now enquired if Morrison had left a family and he was told that he had left one son.
The laird, so soon as this boy was fit to go to school, took charge of him and kept him with his own children, giving him all the same advantages. Eventually, Morrison was an accomplished young man, who had chief management of the laird’s pecuniary affairs. They say that he was comely in his person. He went from home with the laird one time and before they returned they called upon the Laird of Coll. MacLeod was only two nights with the Laird of Coll when both men agreed that Morrison should marry one of the Laird of Coll’s daughters. This union being agreed upon, Morrison was called into the room, when the marriage scheme was disclosed to him.
MacLeod asked Morrison what he had to say to the union. Morrison replied that he considered himself highly honoured to get the offer of the Laird of Coll’s daughter but that match was quite unequal.
‘How’s that’ queried the laird.
‘Because I am a poor young man, having nothing of my own to support myself, much less a family.’
‘Oh, I have plenty for your maintenance and the worthy Laird of Coll will not see his own daughter want while he can render to her of his own. Now we will go to the young lady’s room and ask herself what she thinks.’
Both men entered the room where the laird and his daughter were and her father politely asked her whether she had any objection to marrying Morrison – the Laird of MacLeod’s secretary and manager of his vast affairs.
The young woman discreetly answered as follows: ‘As both parents have agreed to the union, I will take upon myself to ask the Laird of MacLeod one request before I agree to marry Morrison.
Replied MacLeod: ‘Do, and if I can grant your request I’ll do so.’
‘My request’ said the young woman, ‘is that in the event that I marry Morrison and that there may be male children procreate between us, I hope that your honour will be pleased to help us to make a clergyman of one of those sons and a blacksmith of the other. And when both sons are fit and eligible for their trades, that then my laird will give to the minister a parish living and to the blacksmith that country tax commonly attaching to a blacksmith’s trade.’
MacLeod granted the request and farther confirmed it thus: ‘In the event that I should die ere this grant be brought to actual benefit, I entail the fulfilling of this promise upon my heirs.’
Thus Morrison married the Laird of Coll’s daughter, whereby he had a family of sons and daughters. There was a son of Morrison a minister in Harris, whom peopled styled the Parson and another of his sons was the blacksmith of Harris, a trade then very lucrative. And from this Morrison descend the Morrisons who are still blacksmiths in Harris
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