In the early 20th century there were numerous fishing boats working in the Minch. The harbour of Swordale Bay was home to a number of smaller boats, but there were two larger boats (moored in Stornoway) owned by crofters at the southern end of Swordale. One was the Corona, operated by James Maciver (27 Swordale) and his two brothers. The other was the Agnes Irvine, a 52-ton wooden boat built in Anstruther in 1905. Her first 15 years are undocumented, but from the early 1920s she was based in East Fife.
The Agnes Irvine, when registered in Methil, Fife.
In 1932 the Agnes Irvine was purchased and re-located to Point, Lewis. The official owner was John Macarthur, policeman of Garrabost. However, it was actually a partnership which also included Donald Macleod (25 Swordale), Donald Macleod (18 Knock) and Angus Mackay (16 Swordale).
Working with the nets: Donald Macleod (25 Swordale) is on the right.
Donald Macleod of 25 Swordale was my great-grandfather, and I wish I had known him. He was an elder in Knock Free Church, and highly regarded locally. When people in the village had a row they would go to him; on being asked what he had said to them he would typically reply,
"I just listened. There will be another side and another side and another side again.
I only heard one side. The complainant probably only told me what he wanted me
to hear, and I'll have to keep my counsel until I hear all the other sides."
He would reason things out, and point out gaps in what people had told him, remembering word-for-word what he had been told. The minister Rev. Campbell described him as 'a very wise elder in the session'.
It had not always been so. He turned to Christ relatively late in life; his daughter Anna remembered him weeping under conviction of sin. His sense of assurance was weak, and after conversion he sometimes felt a failure because he could see no progress in his Christian life.
Then one day Donald was out on the boat and seemed to be making no headway against the wind and tide. Then a small stick drifted past and he realised that, though imperceptible, the boat was making progress. God used this simple moment to assure him that although his development was slow and sometimes unseen, it was nonetheless real.
Do I value the state of my relationship with the One who made me?