Gazette archives - some of what was hitting the headlines in the past

80 YEARS AGO – 22nd June 1983
Flight engineer John Morrison of Ness. (Pic: SHS)Flight engineer John Morrison of Ness. (Pic: SHS)
Flight engineer John Morrison of Ness. (Pic: SHS)

Ness airman’s heroics amidst German flak

​When a Royal Canadian Air Force bomber had its controls almost shot to pieces on its way to Cologne last week, Sergeant John Morrison, a flight engineer whose home is at 5 North Dell, Ness, so patched them, while the bomber was flying through a thick belt of flak, that it was able to carry on with its task and then bring its crew safely back home.

​Then as it seemed impossible for the extempore repairs to hold out any longer, the skipper ordered all the crew to bail out and the seven of them reached the ground safely. The baling-out process started at half past two in the morning when the Halifax was 8000 feet up and by the time the last man jumped it was at 4000 feet. The first man and the last man to jump were about 20 miles apart when they landed.

That story was told to press representatives when they visited the Royal Canadian Air Force stationed in the north of England. The station commandant stated that it was one of the strangest flying exploits he had ever known. Whether it was because of his modesty or for some other reason, Sergeant Morrison was not to be found when an interview was sought.

When the controls were shot away, the pilot had to adopt all sorts of tactics to keep the bomber right side up in the air while Sergeant Morrison was clambering about the fuselage fastening up broken wires and giving some semblance of guiding control to the levers.

Sergeant Morrison, who is 21, arrived home in Lewis on Saturday – the day on which we had all read with pride of his exploits. He was warmly welcomed by a few friends at the Ness bus but apart from that he passed unrecognised through the large crowd on the pier, although all day his name had been on every lip.

He has now completed his seventh raid over Germany. It was his first parachute landing. When he returns to his hazardous duties a few days hence, the congratulations of all Lewis folk will go with him.


A correspondent sends us a souvenir programme of the first Gaelic Mod to be held in the USA. It took place in “Baile Naomh Fhraing” which even non-Gaelic speaking readers may be able to identify as San Francisco. There were 130 entries.

60 YEARS AGO – 22nd June 1983

Centenarian who never left Lewis

​Mrs Mary Mackay of 4 Timsgarry, Uig, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Sunday has only made two trips away from her home in that time. Both trips were to Stornoway and the second was so long ago that she cannot remember much about it. She has never been on the mainland, seen a train or watched television.

​However, Mrs Mackay does not feel she has missed very much. “I’ve been perfectly happy. I’ve got all I want here”, she said in Gaelic. Mrs Mackay takes a walk around the croft every day and last September took part in hay cutting and other tasks.

She stays with her son Neil and his wife Peggy with their two daughters, Murdina and Rachel. “She’s always on the go”, Peggy told a Gazette reporter. “She doesn’t seem to like resting very much”.

Because Mrs Mackay’s birthday fell on a Sunday, telegrams of congratulation were not delivered until Monday. They included one from the Queen and another in Gaelic from the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, Mr Niall Macpherson.

Mrs Mackay has another son, Angus, in America, two daughters, Annie and Ina in London, and another daughter, also named Annie in Dundee.


Fourteen year-old Kenneth Galloway, a pupil at the Nicolson Institute, won the Stornoway Golf Championship with rounds of 75 and 74, five ahead of his nearest rivals. Kenneth, a modest and unassuming young man, is a most worthy champion. It is interesting to note that Kenneth reduced his handicap from 18 to five in less than a month, a feat as remarkable as winning the championship.

​40 YEARS AGO – 22nd June 1983

​Tributes to ‘John the Barber’

The former chairman of the Stornoway Pier and Harbour Commission, ex-Baillie John Macleod, was honoured at a presentation to mark his devoted service over 18 years, eleven of them as chairman.

​Mr Macleod, popularly known as “John the Barber”, was presented by former colleagues and staff with a colour television. The new chairman, Mr Calum Gillies, told the gathering: “John is as much ‘John, the chairman of the Harbour Commission’ as ‘John the Barber’. Everything the Commission has achieved has had John’s backing and enthusiasm”.

Among the achievements he had supported over the years were the Arnish development in 1974 and the Drillmaster contract “which gave the Commission’s revenue a very welcome boost”. He had also given his wholehearted support to the Ullapool-Stornoway ferry service when it was mooted.

Commission General Manager, Mr Murdoch Macleod, said there was a breed of men and women whom the media called “legends” and he felt that Mr Macleod fitted into that class. He was a person about whom stories would be told in the future.


A Harris man has been appointed as managing director of Stakis Hotels and Inns Ltd. Mr Donald Macdonald (36) joined Stakis in 1969 after a spell with British Transport Hotels. His new appointment gives him responsibility for 23 hotels, 30 restaurants and public houses, 14 Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets and James Ferguson’s, butcher and meat processor, which amounts to a total turnover in excess of £40 million. (He went on to found the Macdonald Hotels Group).