Population and geography
Residents, mainly Gaelic speaking, number about 150, and the village has more than 50 crofts. In recent decades, its population has fallen. As in many other villages on Lewis, older people are in a majority.
The village is in three parts: Borve, which stretches from the southern boundary to the river; High Borve, north of the river; and Melbost Borve, nearest Galson and Dun Bhuirgh. Official records refer to these as Fivepenny Borve, Mid-Borve and Melbost Borve, but the first two names are no longer used.
Two adjacent bridges cross the River Borve in the village. The old one, built in 1896, used to be a site for dancing. Now disused, it is constructed of rubble with a stone arch. The new bridge was completed in 1991.
Borve Free Church was built by local men in 1895 at the junction between the A857 and Church Street, and was extended in the 1980s to include a hall to the rear. Members of the Free Church of Scotland attend some services in Borve but belong to the congregation of Barvas, where services are held more frequently. To the north of the church stood a property which housed a missionary until the 1970s, when provision for a missionary ceased and it was sold.
Previously there was also a Church of Scotland church, about 400 yards south of the Free Church. This comprised a small single storey building with a meeting room to the front and a residence for the lay preacher to the back. Having gone out of use as a church in the 1970s, it was used as a hairdressing salon and then a private house.
In Melbost Borve lie the remains of Cladh Bhrighid (Brigid’s burial ground). Nearby are the ruins of a tiny chapel barely visible in the grass, which historian Martin Martin refers to as the chapel of "St Brigid in Barove" and the Ordnance Survey calls "Teampull Bhrighid" (Brigid’s chapel). Tobar Bhrighid (Brigid’s Well) is also close by. St Brigid was an Irish Christian abbess and saint, with feast day 1 February (Imbolc). The goddess Brigid was one of the Tuatha Dé Danann in Irish mythology.
About half a mile north of Melbost Borve stand the ruins of the broch Dun Bhuirgh. Perhaps Gaelicised from the old Norse word for a fort (borg), this may be the origin of the name Borgh. The broch itself predates Norse times. Its stone wall rises to about 8 feet tall at its highest point.
There is no school in the village. Before the 1872 Education Act, there was a school known as Taigh Sgoile Sheorais (George's School House), run by the Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge and named after the teacher, George Beaton, who is thought to have come from Skye. The site was possibly on what is now croft number 49. Since that time, primary school pupils have travelled to Airidhantuim Primary School in nearby Shader, and secondary school pupils to Lionel School in Ness or the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.
Pottery, hotel, medical surgery, and shop
A hotel, serving mainly as a public bar, was established in the village in the early 1970s, first as Borve Hotel and later as Borve Tavern. In 2006 the debate over whether or not the licensee should beb granted a Sunday liquor licence, on an island where Presbyterian Sabbatarianism is strong, briefly gained coverage in the national media. Shortly after, the Tavern closed. In 2009, after extensive renovation during which most of the original building was demolished, it reopened as the Borve Country House Hotel. It is the island's only hotel north of Barvas.
The village medic from 1884-5 was Roderick Ross, originally from Crobeg in Lochs, where he had also worked as a medic. Active in Church affairs on the island, he is said to have acquired funds for constructing the church building in Borve around 1895, making a personal donation and raising money from fellow medics. He retired in 1908 and died in 1912. His grandson, Tory politician Iain Macleod, was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in June 1970 but died the following month. Macleod's widow, the former Evelyn Blois, was created Baroness Macleod of Borve. She co-founded the homeless charity Crisis at Christmas and died in 1999. The current Borve Medical Practice operates from the Butt of Lewis in the north to Doune Carloway in the south.
The Clan McQuarrie rescue
On the night of 31 January to 1 February 1953, the Clan Line vessel Clan MacQuarrie (7131 tons) was driven onto the foreshore at Borve by gales. Braving the horrendous weather, with winds gusting up to 100 mph, local men got a breeches buoy onto the vessel and brought all 66 crew members ashore safely.
In recognition of the villagers’ courage and hospitality, the Clan Line donated £100. This was used to buy a former Royal Air Force hut at the junction of the A857 and New Street, and convert it to a village hall. Known as the Clan MacQuarrie Hall, this functioned for over 50 years. In 2009, after a long campaign for funding, a Community Centre of the same name was built close by.
To the north of the Community Centre stands the North Lewis War Memorial. Three panels bear the names of men from Borve, Galson, Shader, and Ballantrushal who were killed in the two World Wars and the Iolaire Disaster of 1919. The memorial also records one casualty of the Boer Wars.
Another Borve man, Murdo Morrison ("Murchadh Chalum an Aonghais Dileas") was crowned Bard of the Royal National Mod at Ayr in 1973. He previously worked as an actor, including in the film "I Know Where I'm Going!" (1945).
- http://www.borgh.org.uk/ Photographs of some of the locations mentioned above.
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