The Mathesons

The Matheson Monument, overlooking Cuddy Point near to the Lews Castle, was erected in 1880 by Lady Matheson in memory of her late husband, Sir James Matheson, who bought the Isle of Lewis in 1844 and built Lews Castle and its surrounding grounds.

James Matheson born in 1796, made his fortune trading Opium in the Far East until his retirement in 1840. He went on to marry Mary Jane Percival who originated from Spencer Wood, Quebec in 1843, a year later he bought the Isle of Lewis.

He allowed the use of land for a new school, now known as the Nicolson Institute and also supplemented the cost of a teacher’s salary.  Although initial funding for the school came from the inheritance of a young entrepreneur from Lewis who died in Shanghai named Alexander Morrison Nicolson.  James Matheson was said to be a kind landlord; he assisted many with the Canada migrations and provided employment and aid for many residents during the potato famine for which he was awarded the title of Baronet of the United Kingdom by Queen Victoria.  Sir Matheson and his wife also opened a secondary school for girls called Lady Matheson’s Industrial Female School.

James Matheson died in 1868, Lady Matheson took over ownership of the Isle of Lewis, she was an unsympathetic landlord during the land struggles of the 1880s.  After her death in 1896 ownership of the Isle of Lewis was handed down to James Matheson’s nephew and grand-nephew, due to financial issues, the Isle of Lewis was put up for sale in 1917 and sold to Lord Leverhulme in 1918.

The Matheson monument overlooking Cuddy Point is carved with Poppy heads as a tribute to Sir James Matheson’s successful career in the Opium industry.

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