HISTORY OF LEWIS CROFTERS LTD
More than half a century ago, a rather tentative meeting was held in the former Museum nan Eilean, Francis Street which is now a base for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s digital teaching E-Sgoil. This was the first recorded meeting of the provisional committee who hoped to set-up an agricultural co-operative community in Lewis.
After months of rationing during WW2, talks began to form an agricultural co-operative and these discussions evolved to consider setting up Lewis Crofters Ltd. The vision was simple: there was a need and a potential for local co-operative society with its own storage to take over the accomplished work of the Scottish Agricultural Society, a voluntary sector organisation founded in 1905. As secretary of the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, Mr C.J.M Cadzow took it upon himself to explain the worthy advantages of setting up a co-operative that would supply materials and supplies to crofters.
To celebrate the opening of the co-operative, a special dinner was held at the County Hotel. Mr Donald Stewart, Provost of Stornoway, highlighted that the opening of Lewis Crofters Ltd was a landmark in agricultural history of the island. He saluted the innovative work of those involved in "this experiment." The new society were toasted by Mr Stewart as he emphasised the great support offered by the local community. Stornoway Trust had offered the incentive of a £500 prize to the village which would make the greatest progress in horticulture and agriculture. Today this prize money, would be worth around £8000-£9000.
Lewis Crofters Ltd previous premises Inaclete Road, now Mackinnon’s Self-Drive.
It so happened, that the opening of Lewis Crofters Ltd’s first building coincided with a visit by members of the North of Scotland Agriculture College. This resulted in Mr Matthew Campbell, the secretary of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, opening the new premises on Inaclete Road. At the opening, he was optimistic that increased farming of cattle would be a key attribute for the crofter’s plans.
“If they could produce beef stores in numbers and quality, they would serve the country as a whole and would be building up the fertility of their common grazing’s which has, perhaps, suffered by being grazed by too many sheep”.
He reminded that it would not always be plain sailing for the co-operative as there has been previously a lack of support throughout the Highlands and Islands, however, Mr Campbell was otherwise convinced. He believed that Lewis Crofters Ltd had favourable support from the local community and their neighbours, the Isle of Harris. Mr Campbell’s viewpoint is somewhat current to the success of Lewis Crofters Ltd today.
Lewis Crofters Ltd, Cromwell Street
“Well, well, well” the bodach said. “Who would have believed that one day I would have my own shop on Cromwell Street”.
The opening of the Cromwell Street shop was a great achievement for the company. General manager Colin F Macdonald, assistant manager Angus Stewart and their staff were responsible for this success, as they continued supplying agricultural products at the main premises on Island Road. Cromwell Street was set-up to accommodate the overall community, not just the crofters. With the variety of goods which the store had to offer, Lewis Crofters Ltd became renowned for its great finds - a reputation we like to think we still have today.
(L-R) General Manager Colin F Macdonald, Office Manager Margo Macleod, Assistant Manager Captain Angus ‘Ease’ Macleod and Secretary Mr Donald Macdonald
Our thanks goes to Fred Silver and Sandy Matheson for their work compiling this information.