Murdo Mackenzie and Anne MacLeod

Murdo MacKenzie and Anne MacLeod

Murdo ‘am Pilot’ MacKenzie

Murdo MacKenzie was born in Shulishader, Isle of Lewis, Scotland in about 1851. His father was Donald MacKenzie a fisherman, and his mother was Henrietta Mackenzie. Their story is told on a separate page.

Anne MacLeod

Anne MacLeod was born in Knock, Isle of Lewis, Scotland in about 1844. Her parents were Alexander MacLeod and Jessie MacDonald. Their story is told on a separate page.

Acknowledgement and Update

Since I first published this web page, I have been contacted by Ian Macleod, who chanced upon this website while searching for his, and indeed my, great grandfather Murdo MacKenzie. It turns out that Ian, who is my second cousin, has a lot more information than I did about the MacKenzie family. Much of this information came from his father, Dr John Macleod, who was the Pilot’s grandson. 

I am grateful for all this additional information, and also for his permission to publish it on this web page. I have updated this page to include the additional information.  August 2023.

Anne MacLeod
Anne MacLeod

Anne MacLeod

Anne MacLeod photographed in Stornoway in the early part of the twentieth century.

Murdo Mackenzie ‘am Pilot’ (The Pilot)

Murdo MacKenzie and his brother William were both noted for composing poems and songs. His brother William was known as “The Bard” and he emigrated to Canada. 

Murdo was deeply religious and most of his poetry was about the Church. It was said that “he ruled his family with a rod of iron.”

In the photo opposite the Pilot is holding his great granddaughter Annette Young (nee MacLeod), who was my first cousin.

Murdo MacKenzie 'am Pilot'. Image courtesy of Anne Young
Murdo MacKenzie ‘am Pilot’. Image courtesy of Anne Young
Translation into English courtesy of 'An Iodhlann' - Tiree's Historical Centre
Translation into English courtesy of ‘An Iodhlann’ – Tiree’s Historical Centre

Pilot’s Song

Many thanks to Ian MacLeod, and his father, for providing the explanation as to how Murdo became known as ‘am Pilot’.

Apparently, Murdo MacKenzie had a fishing accident where a fishing hook became embedded in his eye and he lost his eye as a result. After the accident he became known as ‘Pilot’ or ‘The Pilot’ after an old Gaelic song about a one-eyed dog called Pilot. 

I have shown the words to the song in English opposite. The poem is reproduced with the kind permission of ‘An Iodhlann’ – Tiree’s Historical Centre.

A recording of the song in Gaelic can be found here. It is sung most beautifully by Karen Matheson. Please be aware that this link will open a YouTube page in a new window where this music is located. If you do not have a subscription to YouTube Premium, you may have to endure a short advert, before the music starts to play.

Chuir iad an t-sùil à Pilot bàn,
Chuir iad an t-sùil à Pilot;
Chuir iad an t-sùil à Pilot bochd,
‘S gun fhios ciod an lochd a rinn e.
Dìol mo chuid mulan aig mucan a’ chùbair,
Chuir iad ‘n .an smùid an raoir iad
‘S beag a bha fhios a’m gu’n robh iad ‘s an dùthaich
Fhad ‘s a bha ‘n t-sùil am Pilot.
Ghleidheadh e dhomhsa ‘n gàradh-càil,
Gu là bho’n chromadh an duibhire
Policeman riamh cha robh aig na Goill
Cho math ris air faireadh na h-oidhche.
Ged thèìd mi do m’ leaba cha’n fhaigh mi loc cadail,
Le balaich a’ bhaile ‘s an oidhche;
Ach dh’fhaodadh na suirichean fuireach aig baile,
Mur dalladh a’ chaile mo Philot.
Saoil sibh fhèine nach bu neo-bhanail,
Am buill thug a’ chaile le foill dha
Gur mairg gill’ òg ‘g an leannan a’ bhèisd,
Bho’n chuir i bho fheum mo Philot.
Chuir mi petition a dh’ionnsaidh na ban-righ’nn,
a dh’ innseadh mar thachair do m’Pilot.
Thuirt i gu’n cuireadh i gini ‘am dhorn
a chuireadh suil oir ‘am Pilot.

Birthplace of Anne MacLeod

Anne was born in Knock, near the causeway at Aignish, Isle of Lewis, Scotland. 

Knock, from the Gaelic, An Cnoc (a small hill), is a village in Point peninsula on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Point (an Rubha in Gaelic) is connected by road across a narrow isthmus (barely 100 metres wide) to Stornoway, the main administrative centre of the Western Isles.

 The village of Knock consists of between fifty and one hundred houses and is bordered to the south with Swordale and to the north with Aignish.

Aerial View - Village of Knock
Aerial View – Village of Knock
9 Shulishader, Point
9 Shulishader, Point


Murdo MacKenzie was born at 9 Shulishader, Point and lived there for much of his life. I am not sure if I have found the correct croft, but this one is next door to 11 Shulishader, and marked as No 9 on Google Maps. It looks like it has what estate agents would describe as, “scope for improvement”.

Ian MacLeod recalls that his father told him the story of when his father was young, they were all sitting round the dinner table about to have a meal. Whilst the Pilot was saying grace, one of his father’s cousins or brother pretended to flick some food off his spoon at the Pilot. Dad copied this but unfortunately he hit the Pilot on the face with the food off his spoon. 

He recalls, “My father managed to escape out the house before physical retribution was applied. He spent the night hiding up the hillock behind the croft.” The  next morning his mother came out to him with a suitcase with his clothes. She said to him “Don’t worry John, there is a place in heaven for you” to which he replied “I need a piece of it now” and he made it by bus down to Crossbost to stay with Aunt Bella  where he stayed for the rest of the summer. I am not sure if he went part of the time to the Macleod family croft in Aignish or not.

Family Anecdotes

Apparently at that time when a  boat returned from fishing, the women would wade out  and carry the fishermen ashore on their shoulders so that their clothes would not get wet.They would  then have a whisky when they got back to the house.

On another occasion Dr John and his brother Donald decided to wash themselves with water from the water barrel outside the croft house on a Saturday night .The water was for drinking etc on the sabbath and the well was some distance from the house. Both brothers received the appropriate retribution.

When the Pilot got a radio, he would take his hat off when the news was read, and when electricity was installed into the Pilot’s house ,he issued an edict that only he could switch the lights on or off.

9 Shulishader - marked in red
9 Shulishader – marked in red
View of Knock Today
View of Knock Today

Knock Today

A view of Knock today, looking towards Stornoway. 

Knock used to have a primary school and post office. The post office closed in 2008 along with many other post offices in the north west of Scotland.

Knock Primary school opened on 29 October 1878 and closed for the last time on 30 June 2011 when the pupils were moved to a new school in Bayble. The old school is now a locally run shop and café “Buth an Rubha & Cafe Roo” selling a wide range of everyday essentials and local produce. It opened on 7 March 2014.

There is another village called Knock, in the district of Carloway, in the Uig Parish of Lewis.


Shulishader (Scottish Gaelic: Siadar an Rubha) is a small village with a population of around 120 people in Point, Outer Hebrides on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland. Located on the north-western side of the Eye Peninsula, it overlooks Broad Bay. Most of the village is over 60m above sea level, affording excellent views across the bay and northern Lewis, though the land falls gently towards the sea before ending in small cliffs. There are several small, difficult to access, sandy beaches, and a small cove on the coastline. The cove is accessible via 88 dilapidated steps, and contains a pebble peach, some natural caves and a concrete structure once used for boat moorings above the high tide line.

The village is surrounded by common grazing land and moorland which is worked to provide peat as fuel, but this is a declining activity. Vodafone erected a mobile phone mast on the moor, a short distance east of the centre of the village.

Aerial View of Shulishader
Aerial View of Shulishader
Shulishader Today - Looking across Broad Bay towards Gress
Shulishader Today – Looking across Broad Bay towards Gress

Shulishader Today

The village is essentially a dormitory village, and there are no amenities within the village, not even a church, which is unusual for a Lewis village. An hourly bus service passes through from Portnaguran to Stornoway and in the opposite direction, though services are less frequent in the evening.

The village is surrounded by common grazing land and moorland which is worked to provide peat as fuel, but this is a declining activity. Vodafone erected a mobile phone mast on the moor, a short distance east of the centre of the village.

Marriage Certificate

Murdo MacKenzie married Anne MacLeod on 13 December 1877 in the Free Church in Garrabost (see below). Murdo MacKenzie records his occupation as a fisherman.

Anne MacLeod signed the Register with a “mark”. She was a domestic servant and both Murdo and Anne’s fathers were also fisherman.

Marriage - Murdo MacKenzie 13 December 1877
Marriage – Murdo MacKenzie 13 December 1877
Garrabost - Free Church
Garrabost – Free Church

Free Church in Garrabost

This rather austere building was the Free Church in Garrabost which is situated between Shulieshader and Knock.