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Original Mission HallThe Old Mission Hall was built in the early 1900s during a revival of religious enthusiasm in the Western Hebrides; the Mission House or Preacher's House next door over the hill was built a bit later. Since the roads are so much better now and people can travel to church of a Sunday, the Free Church of Scotland closed the Old Mission Hall in 2008.

According to Hebridean Connections online, "The Mission Hall was converted in the early 1900s and the first resident missionary was Mr. Donald Macleod in 1914. It was extended in 1937 and officially opened on the Coronation Day of King George VI." In 2012 when the Hall was emptied of all its former wood paneling, floor and ceiling, we found that the walls are solid stone about three feet thick up to a height of five feet or so, then above that the walls are much thinner and made of block. The blocks form an outside layer that also makes up the utility area and the bedroom.

Original Mission HallWe think therefore that the Hall was converted from an old house, perhaps a blackhouse, and the 1937 extension mentioned made it both larger and taller. The thick walls have voids above them that are enclosed by the thinner block walls. Someday we may open the voids up as bookshelves.

Cromore was once more populated than today. Around the turn of the 20th century the village had 27 crofts and around 150 people. Foodstuffs were brought in by boat – the road wasn't paved until the 1950s – and supplied from small shops attached to 15 and 13 Cromore.

According to Hebridean Connections: The most notable shop though was Buth Mhurcaidh Iain Chalum owned by Murdo Macleod of 13 Cromore and sited near the current entrance gate to Crobeg. His nickname was 'MacConnachie' probably so named after one of his main suppliers. He was a real character with a long beard down to his knees and walked with a walking stick. He must have been quite a ladies man as he was married four times.

Developing the HallHe also used to sell strong drink known locally as Dealanaich MicConnachie or 'MacConnachie's Lightning', a reference no doubt to the potency of the liquor which may very well have come from a still supposedly located in one of the shielings [summer sheds up in the pastures]. The shop which traded between the two world wars came to a sticky end one night when a fierce gale blew the roof of the shop all the way across the village, eventually landing near to 19 Cromore. In those days the construction was typically old wood from boats covered with felt. Many items, including bags of fruit, hung from the rafters and children were busy collecting the spoils across the village over the following days as the bags were strewn across the fields.

HebrideansThe Old School house is just down the road on the right. It was built as the new Public School at Cromore, replacing the old thatched school, in the late 1870s on the strength of the Education Act of 1872, to accommodate children from Cromore, Crobeg and Torostay. Old school pictures are available on the Hebridean Connections website, showing as many as 30 children in the 1950s. The school was closed in 1972.

These and many more stories of crofting, weaving, boats and fishing, the bringing of electricity and piped water in the 1950s, peat cutting, games of shinty, and life in the olden days are available through http://www.hebrideanconnections.com

People have lived on Lewis for thousands of years, although the landscape may not look it. Waves of settlers from Old Stone Age herders through Neolithic farmers, then Norse invaders and settlers, Christian monks, and modern crofters have made their marks on the land. There are several books, long and short, at the Old Mission Hall to help you research and understand this brave land.

Around the Mission Hall