The Hub’s history

Leverhulme Community Hub is sited in what was the Primary building at Leverhulme Memorial School and has a long history.

William Hesketh Lever (Lord Leverhulme) originally built the old Primary building as a small hotel and community facility but unfortunately in May 1925, before the building was functional, Lord Leverhulme passed away from pneumonia and as his estate had no interest in continuing the development work in South Harris, it was put up for sale.

In the early 1930s it was acquired by Inverness County Council and converted into a school. It operated as a school for 85 years and is an important part of the history of Leverburgh and South Harris.

Lord Leverhulme had a vision for Leverburgh and South Harris. At the time, the whole of Harris had a population of 4,750 people whereas today’s population is under 2,000 people. Leverhulme’s grandiose plan was that the population of Leverburgh alone would be 10,000 people.

He started his project by clearing 170 acres of land at the harbour. He then built a new stone jetty and a wooden pier capable of accommodating a dozen herring drifters. He also erected industrial buildings for curing, smoking and packing herring along with barracks for 250 women and 180 men. In addition to this, he even built a railway line with two engines to service his schemes.

In the month of June 1924, Leverburgh saw the biggest industrial revolution in its history. Lord Leverhulme’s herring drifters landed 958 crans of herring which amounts to 717,750 herring. This was double the amount of herring that were being landed in Stornoway. Leverburgh was awash with workers. Hundreds of extra girls were brought in from the mainland to cope with all the gutting and packing of these herring. He had spent £250,000 on the harbour which in today’s market would have been around 10 million pounds.

Leverburgh wasn’t always known as Leverburgh. Prior to Lord Leverhulme it was known as Obbe and there are some who still refer to it in that way today. In Gàidhlig, it is still known as An t-Ob. The decision to change the name was taken at a meeting of local residents in August 1919. Lord Leverhulme had thought the name Obbe was to monosyllabic and not grand enough for his great schemes. At the meeting, he suggested that either Port MacLeod or Port Dunmore would be more appropriate, but someone in the audience shouted, ‘you are spending the money, call it after yourself’. As such, on 1st December 1920, Obbe officially became known as Leverburgh.

Pictures and information by Tony Scherr.