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The earliest recorded mention of a Stornoway Town Hall is in 1897, when the Town Council set up a committee to investigate “the acquisition by public subscription of a suitable feu…, and the erection of a public hall and offices.” It was three years later before the Carn House feu, at the corner of Cromwell Street and South Beach Street, was agreed with Major Matheson, then owner of Lewis. 

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An auspicious start to one of the town’s finest landmarks.

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The first Town Hall was on the site of the present one and was opened in 1905 by the Earl of Rosebery, a former Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary and a distinguished Scottish Statesman.

 

Stornoway Town Hall was officially opened on 7th September, 1905, a public holiday in the town. The cermeony was a grand affair, performed by the Rt. Hon. The Earl of Rosebery, K. G., former Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary and a distinguished Scottish Statesman.

On 2nd March 1918, the Town Hall was mysteriously destroyed by fire; nothing was left standing except the walls. It was rebuilt on the same site and re-opened in 1929 by Thomas Basset Macaulay, Montreal, the President of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada. Mr. Macaulay had strong Lewis connections: his grandfather, a fishing boat skipper, had been born in Uig, but settled in Fraserburgh where his son, Robertson Macaulay, was born. Robertson Macaulay came to Stornoway at the age of ten to live with his aunt following the death of his father. He went to Canada in 1854 and eventually became President of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, the position held by his son, Thomas Basset Macaulay, at the time of the opening of the rebuilt Town Hall.

T. B. Macaulay, together with John Bain, a Chicago banker and the brother of Provost Louis Bain, William Macaskill, also of Chicago, and a number of others, had contributed generously to the re-building fund.

Murdoch Macleod