Benbecula Brickworks, Benbecula, South Uist, Invernesshire

Canmore – Local knowledge records that there was a brickworks on Benbecula, located near where the telephone exchange now stands. It was set up by Lady Gordon Cathcart to provide employment for island men following the potato famine and produced bricks and tile drain pipes. Clay was extracted from the surrounding area.

The brickworks were demolished in the 1960s prior to the construction of the telephone exchange. A steel structure at this location was referred to locally as being part of the brick press. Dunskellar School and a house at Sollas, North Uist, are known locally as being constructed from bricks from the Benbecula Brickworks.

1879 – Benbecula Brickwork was built in 1879, for the manufacture of bricks and drain pipes, at a cost of about £350 sterling. It gives employment to a few men. Since its erection, Lady Cathcart has paid about £800 sterling for labour in connection with the work.

13/05/1880 – Glasgow Evening Post – Benbecula. What may be termed a new industry has just been begun at Benbecula. Suitable brick clay has been found in the island and both bricks and tiles, more than sufficient for local requirements, are now obtained on the spot.

30/05/1883 – The Scotsman – Crofters commission. Enquiry at Benbecula …

Sheriff Nicolson – The people’s style of living had become a great deal worse in his time. A large portion of them had not sufficient food. He believed that at the present time some of them were suffering for want of food. Hunger had not been so prevalent in the country as at present. He did not know any family who lived upon the produce of their croft. The people were supplied with their meal by humane merchants who, no doubt, charged a pretty severe price for it. The price of oatmeal was 50s a bag. The potato crop had been very backward this year. The people in Benbecula received no relief money. They heard of others getting it, but they had no one to enlighten them about it and they got none. A good few of the young men went to the fishing at Barra, and a number entered the militia.

Mr Fraser Mackintosh – Nine or ten families were put in upon them when their land was added to the tack of Nunton. The proprietrix gave them some work to do. They had drained lochs and reclaimed parks and had also manufactured some bricks and tiles. The brickwork was still in operation but there were not many people about it. They suffered very much from want of milk and also from a want of other strengthening foods such as fish and beef and butter and cheese …

(Note – SBH – This is a large article of the hardships being suffered by the crofters of Benbecula. It is very descriptive of their difficulties).

17/10/1883 – Northern Chronicle and General Advertiser for the North of Scotland – … Angus Maclennan, local factor for Lady Gordon Cathcart’s estates in south Uist and in the Long Island, read a statement giving statistics bearing on the amelioration of the crofters on that property … There has been £3040 laid out on drains … Between the Nunton houses and church repairs £1090 had been spent: £930 for a brick work …

Below – 1901 – The Benbecula Brickworks are believed to have been built somewhere in the vicinity of the area detailed on the map below.

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