Category Archives: Latest Stories

Aardman Animations are back on Tiree!

We are delighted to welcome Jim Parkyn from Aardman Animations back to Tiree. He loved his trip last time and was eager to return.

This time he will be working with S1 & S2 students for 2 days with Jack Lockhart and Alasdair Satchel. Each student will make their own animation about their experience growing up on Tiree and what Scotland means to them. The finished animations will be screened at The Oban Phoenix on the 7th October and will tour with the Screen Machine’s programme. The animations will also be submitted to a competition that the National Library of Scotland is running.

While Jim is here he will introduce a special Scratch and Sniff version of Aardman Classic: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. This will be held in An Talla at 6pm on Thursday 20th September.

Screen Argyll are delighted to be working in partnership with Regional Screen Scotland and the Highland and Island Enterprise as part of the Year of Young People. This project has also been made possible by the support of Into Film and is part of a national celebration of animation called Anim18.

Will Wright takes 1st at Coll Half Marathon

After a last minute decision to participate, on the 18th of August, Will and Becky Wright chose to travel to Coll for the islands annual half marathon. In previous years, Will had only just made it into the top ten runners. Despite feeling as though his winning days were over, he came in strong and took first place, finishing in 1 hour and 20 minutes! “Although it was only the local half marathon it did actually feel really good to be at the front of a race again and feeling strong. Since the Coll runners have supported our events so often it was nice to return the support and go and take part over there,” said Will. Becky also ran a great race, finishing in 1 hour and 51 minutes. She’s now looking forward to the Edinburgh Half Marathon towards the end of September.

People of Tiree – Rhoda Meek

Rhoda Meek was born and raised in Edinburgh, moving to the island around five and a half years ago. She works remotely as a Director of Customer Service for a Software Company in America, troubleshooting problems within the programs, but also took on her family’s croft.

Not only has Rhoda taken on with learning how to manage and work the croft, but she has accomplished a variety of projects since joining Tiree’s community. She took the time to sit down and talk about some of her experiences, including her latest project with building hayricks using traditional methods.

What did you have to do at the start when you arrived here?

I don’t think I knew what I wanted to do when I got here; I just do the things I enjoy. The main thing is that I knew this house needed attention and it was my main focus.

Did you live here in your grandmother’s house at the start or did you live somewhere else?

I lived in here and did up the other side. I stripped it out myself then had other people come in to fix it up. I’m quite good at building functional things but they don’t look pretty so I had professionals put it back together. The house was my main focus to make it liveable and reasonably modern. I started taking lets for the other end of the house because there’s no point in it just being me.

What was after fixing up the house?

I actually started the vegetables before the house was finished; I needed a project to keep me busy. The house was very cold and had little hot water so I needed something to take my mind off it. I had to SEE progress so that’s why I started doing the veg. As the house came to an end I started working on the croft.

So it’s all gradually come along, but you’ve made it work! You’ve built it up from something that wasn’t in the greatest condition.

Yeah it was cold, damp, draughty and came with a collection of insects. Before I decided I was going to rip the whole place apart – which we did – we stripped it all down to the stone and dirt, I hired a damp surveyor from Oban. He was quite a while before saying I have good and bad news. He says, “Well you have wet rot, wood weevil, woodworm, condensationary damp, rising damp and penetrating damp, but you don’t have any dry rot.” That was the one bit of good news! So, I decided to just start again. The stonework is still the original. The house was built in 1891, it’s never going to be perfect, never draft free etc but I like it that way, I want the house to keep its soul.

So how did “Fresh Off the Croft” start?

It started out because I enjoyed being outside. I wasn’t doing anything with the croft when I moved here and I wanted to be able to do things. I can’t spend all day on the computer so it was nice, but I also can’t spend all day staring at vegetables. The first year wasn’t that great but on the second year I had a few extra and decided to start selling them to people. I had enough money to pay for the seeds for next year and I thought maybe I could start selling vegetables. That’s how it kicked off. Then I spoke to Jane Williams my neighbour and she decided to get involved. It’s fun and people seem to enjoy eating them. We keep spare potatoes, carrots, onions, leeks so we’ve always got enough for soup. Kale grows throughout the year and this time of year there’s cucumbers and tomatoes. There’s usually lettuce but the caterpillars ate them this year. A lot of work goes into it and I dread to think what the hourly rate would be, but I really enjoy it. I think one of the nice things about crofting in general is that you cannot win against nature. Nature will always find a way to do what it wants to do. It sort of takes the pressure off as you’ll never be able to achieve perfection. You always get to think next year will be better. It doesn’t matter how rough it’s been, there’s always a glimmer of optimism.

So no two years are ever the same?

There are no two years that are the same. This is now the 6th Summer I’ve been growing vegetables and the 4th Summer I’ve been doing it as Fresh Off the Croft and I haven’t yet had two Springs or Summers the same. Problems you have one year don’t appear the next year. Things grow perfectly one year, you do the exact same next year and they just don’t grow. You’re constantly trying to find reasons and coming up with theories but it is what it is. I guess I like that challenge of trying to problem solve. It’s never boring, and you never get the same problem twice which is infuriating!

What possessed you to make hay this year using traditional methods?

Well I had some really good grass at the top of the field; the field’s quite wet so the grass grew in nicely. I thought it’d be a shame to let it go to waste, so I decided to cut it. I thought it was a really good idea at the time to get a contractor to cut it and after it was cut it dawned on me I was going to have to turn it, and dry it, and store it. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. So, I went and got some advice from people, found some old pitchforks in the garage, and turned the hay by hand. I did it three times, then I realised it wasn’t drying fast enough. I decided to go up a generation and I borrowed a haybob and turned it with that. It started drying properly since it spreads out so it’s not quite as thick. I was feeling delighted with myself and my hay was lovely and dry and then the rain was forecast… I had a minor meltdown because I had no idea how to get that amount of hay secure. One of my neighbours, Lachie, gave me his time and he taught me how to build hayricks in the old style. The idea was that you would build these hayricks in the field with three fence posts, in a triangle, in the middle and you tie them. You go around putting the hay on loosely and carry on in a circle building it up until you get your hayrick. Then you put a little hat on it, which is kind of crisscrossed hay. The idea is that water doesn’t penetrate that and it just runs down the sides. So when you get a couple of good dry days the top and the side of your stack are all that needs to dry out and it keeps the rest of the hay inside nice and dry. What they would have done back in the day was get a buckrake, like a huge fork on the back of the tractor, and put it under the rick, lift it up and then take it into the stack yard. You would then fork the off the ricks, and rebuild them into a full haystack.

So you do your research on the history of crofting?

For me there is a lot of value in understanding the old ways. It doesn’t mean it makes the most sense to use them these days when there are easier methods but equally I think there are things to learn from looking at how things were done in the past. I’ve been looking at drains recently. You look at how my ancestors built them and they run perfectly and they make perfect sense and I can see exactly why they were built this way and I wouldn’t change them – aside from cleaning them! I’ve learned a lot by looking at just the way things were laid out.

Did you have help from other people?

I’ve had a huge amount of help from people. I honestly couldn’t do a fraction of what I attempt without people giving me their time so generously. I’m forever asking questions! I try to use my computer skills to help people in return. I will go as far as I can before asking for help. I’m naturally proud, but after I spent 3 days trying to hit a bolt, I asked for help and of course, when you ask someone with expertise, it gets done in 30 seconds, but I’m always determined to give it a good try.

Do you have any other big projects planned?

Loads of them but whether any will happen I don’t know. There are still two out buildings on the croft that need a lot of work; they need reroofed at the very least. I haven’t finished my building projects by any stretch, but I am going to have a pause before doing more, assuming winter doesn’t take any roofs off! I’d like to get some cows in the next year. I would also like to actually complete a crofting year feeling like I know roughly what I’m doing… I think learning is my biggest project at the moment.

So you’re still learning?

Definitely! Lambing this year, I’ve never felt so ignorant in my life. It was like a vertical learning curve. It was incredibly humbling actually. I’ve helped other people in previous years but doing it yourself is different. When I’m on my own and I have to make a decision, it’s 50/50 and 9 times out of 10 I don’t even know if it was the right decision. That was the really challenging bit for me – I hate not knowing things!

So, besides your family ties, what made you decide to move to Tiree and take all this on?

I’ve always felt like I had a connection with this place, I always wanted to come back. It just suits me. I think I benefitted not growing up on Tiree; from growing up in the city and coming to Tiree on holiday, the freedom was incredible. This was a paradise for me as a kid, and I think as an adult looking for somewhere I could just breathe, and somewhere which felt like home, Tiree became an obvious choice. My favourite part of Tiree is the silence, especially in the winter. I love the storms, lying in bed and listening to the storm battering the roof.

Thank you to Rhoda for sitting down with me to talk about her experiences!

– Rou Worsley, Editor

Tiree Ultramarathon returns on Sunday 9th September

250 runners will once again gather on the shores of Tiree to run around the complete coastline in one day. Or for some of them a mere four and a half hours!

The 35 mile Tiree Ultramarathon is now in it’s 5th year, and starts at 8am on Sunday 9th September. At Tiree Fitness we’re busy with final preparations but are still keen to hear any feedback to help the event run smoother, and also looking for volunteers to help out on the day.

• Course details: visit to see where the course goes. We’re always grateful for the cooperation and support from people who live and work around the route, and please do get in touch if there’s anything we can do to minimise disruption

• Event team: the runners really do need all the support we can give them, if you can help out on the day please let us know

• Island inspirations: we’ve got local runners taking part again this year, and we wish them all the very best as they take on the challenge and inspire others along the way

Oban Mountain Rescue – so far this year our events have raised £1,850 for the OMR Team – thanks everyone for your contributions, in particular the raffle donations at the 10k. We hope to add to this amount at the ultramarathon.

Thanks everyone, and good luck to all the runners!
Event contact: Will Wright – email or call 07867 304 640

Tiree Music Festival 2018

Tiree Music Festival’s 9th celebration began on Friday the 13th July with beautiful sunny warm weather – an excellent way to kick off the weekends festivities.

While the main events taking place at An Talla attracted around 2,000 individuals from across the globe, it wasn’t only the festival grounds that were bustling with activity. Everyone at Taigh a Rudha were thrilled on Sunday afternoon when some of the artists generously took the time to visit and play for both the residents and the staff.

Although the sun had eventually dissappeared behind a humid mist on Saturday, the atmosphere around the festival site was buzzing with positivity and the attendees were full of enthusiasm and energy despite the weather.

While TMF gives visitors a reason to visit the island for such an expansive event, it also presents opportunities to the locals that they previously may not have had the chance to experience. It was Clare Jones’ first visit to TMF since it debuted nine years ago and she was impressed by the family friendly atmosphere of the event. Rachel Gwilym, a regular to the festival, was able to seize an opportunity to test out her idea for the Tiree Story Tent and had plenty of positive comments regarding the festival in general;

“I think TMF brings musicians to the island that the young people here perhaps wouldn’t hear normally. It gives the local children a chance to engage in an event that’s really happening here, so they can sort of showcase their own environment somehow and I think it’s a safe place to have a holiday at home. I come because the children really love it and I like the music; this year I’ve really enjoyed having this opportunity with the story tent to develop my own skills at home, in my own setting. My favourite thing so far this year is been having the tent; it’s given me an opportunity to engage with the children and quite a lot of the adults. I’ve had a lot of people in. I’ve really enjoyed doing the meditation; it’s created this very grounding experience.”

Despite being exposed to the outdoor elements, the wonderful entertainment lined up for the ‘Elevate stage’ was organised by Jamie MacDonald who said,

“I had a great opportunity in programming the elevate stage. Getting to work at an event of this scale has helped to further my music career.”

It provided Catriona Spink a chance to sell her Whalesong products. “It’s been good,” she started, taking a chance to move her stall outside with the sunny break in the weather, “It’s lovely to come down to meet previous customers who bought merchandise the year before. When I walk in, it’s all smiling faces, great music and a casual atmosphere.”

Inside the Big Top tent, in the audience and enjoying the performance on stage, Chalky said,

“It’s great. Despite the weather everyone’s enjoying themselves; it’s great to see so many of the islanders at the event. Tiree Song Book was brilliant – my first time hearing them. It’s great to see Tiree bands on stage each day and the food has been amazing.”

Mido and Dave had travelled all the way from Saudi Arabia to visit Scotland, and were making use of the campsite provided by TMF and said,

“This is our fourth time on Tiree, and TMF is the only music festival we visit. The beaches are amazing and the locals here are very kind. The festival has a great family atmosphere.”

After performing on stage earlier in the day, Eilidh MacFadyen said,

“It’s a nice experience to come home to play to familiar faces; both locals and the regular visitors to TMF.”

TMF gave Cúram the chance to raise funds with two separate raffles; they raised £541 from the raffle for the 1 Gallon of Whisky kindly donated by the Scarinish Hotel, which went to A. Mitchell, Milton while ‘Tiree Ted’, an enthusiastic teddy bear whose favourite band is Trail West, raised a total of £129 and found a loving home with Martha Campbell.

From the displays of the impressive fire show by the Delighters from Edinburgh, the circus skill workshops with Polly and Duncan and a variety of food stands, Tiree Music Festival 2018 may have finished in a downpour of rain but its high spirits and organisation offered a range of positive and unforgettable experiences to the islanders, our regular visitors and newcomers.

United Auctions’ Donald Morrison to “hang up the gavel” after 45 years

One of Scotland’s longest-serving auctioneers is to step out of the rostrum in the Autumn.

Donald Morrison of United Auctions will relinquish the selling aspect of his role serving the West Coast of Scotland, almost 45 years to the day since he started in the sale ring aged just 17 years old.

His last time in the rostrum for Scotland’s leading livestock auctioneers will take place on Friday 28 September 2018 on Islay. However, crofters and farmers on the Islands, Dalmally and at Oban Mart will be pleased to know that Donald will be continuing with all his other roles and will still be their main operational contact for the West Coast sales.

The existing team of auctioneers, comprising Raymond Kennedy, Peter Wood, Ross Fotheringham, Derek Anderson and Richard Close, will conduct all the sales from September.

Donald Morrison, who has not yet reached retirement age, said:“The milestone of 45 years seems like a good time to hang up the gavel and step out of the box to let the next generation in. The team has been working together for a while now as part of the Company’s succession planning, so it will essentially be business as usual for our customers at the sales.” He continued: “I’m often asked how long it takes to train as an auctioneer and the answer is: a lifetime. You’re never fully fledged, there’s something new to learn every day because as farming changes, we have to change and adapt. I don’t think you can ever know it all. That’s why I’m looking forward to still being involved with the sales without being the man in the box, so I can, probably, enjoy it more – and keep learning.”

George Purves,Managing Director of United Auctions, said:“Donald has worked tirelessly for nearly half a century on behalf of the crofters and farmers in the West Coast of Scotland. As an Islander himself, he inherently understands the needs of the community, how the area works and will continue to add to his impressive legacy.”

Tiree’s Annual Art Exhibition Opens Doors

Tiree’s annual art exhibition opened its doors at 7pm at Baugh Church on July the 2nd.

The opening night held a marvellous atmosphere with people excited to see the show. Miss Norma Omand was the Guest of Honour, opening the 24th Exhibition with a wonderful speech. She said, “Having always looked forward to seeing the art work submitted to the annual art exhibition myself, I was delighted to be invited to open this year’s exhibition. I am always amazed at the talent and confidence of the exhibitors who are prepared to put their work on display for others to admire, comment on and purchase! As a native of Tiree, it is no surprise to me that people are inspired to produce works of art…but the way each individual chooses to interpret the colours and places I know so well is always something I enjoy. This year is no exception and it is always pleasing to see works from new contributors as well as those who regularly exhibit.”

Though missing a few“faithfuls” this year due to various reasons, the exhibition was happy to welcome new faces to the event. High quality, interesting work was put on display, with this years pieces providing an energetic, almost ‘Mediterranean-fresh’ vibe within the heavenly vibe space of the church, which is the perfect setting for the expression of the island’s artistic talents. Shona would like to give special thanks to Bear (without whom it would not have happened); the Baugh Church Leaders, Liz Kerr, Norma Omand, Neil Connor, the artists, Maya Sutherland, the Co-Op staff, loyal crew of “Show-Sitters”, her daughter Daisy Johnston for being her “Emily” on the opening night and of course, the general public.

“Thank you so much and I really do hope you love Tiree Art Enterprises 2018 Summer Show as much as I do,” – Shona Johnston.

The Tiree Art Exhibition is open every day through July , except Friday and Sunday, between 1pm- 4pm and everyone is welcome. This years donation box is for Miss Maya Sutherland who will be traveling to Cambodia via Project Trust to teach English to children. Please note that the Exhibition will close for 5 days from the 30th of July to allow a prior church commitment to take place, but will resume as normal afterwards. It finishes on the 11th of August at 4pm. All work should be collected then.

People of Tiree

Claire Urquhart, who runs Gym ‘n’ Tonic, took the time to speak to me and answer some questions about her life and work here on Tiree.

Where were you born and raised originally? Have you always been interested in health and fitness from a young age?

I was born and brought up in Farnham Surrey. I moved to Tiree seven years ago with my husband Duncan and three children: George, Charlie and Olivia.

I have always been a keen sportswoman with athletics being my favourite. I competed in high jump and sprints as a teenager.

What brought you to Tiree and how did you find it compared to where you came from?

Duncan’s father’s family are from Tiree. Gym ‘n’ Tonic is based in Duncan’s grandparents house ‘Mary T’ and ‘Willy McPhee’. Their son Duncan McPhee has been extremely supportive in this venture and I couldn’t have done it without his help.

Tiree is very different from where I grew up. It’s beautiful here with its fresh clean air and I love the open space.

What is your favourite thing about the island?

I haven’t got just one. I love the colours of the sea sand and machair. The Tiree Lifestyle. Since I moved here I have been made to feel very welcome. When I talk to extended family they are very envious when I describe Tiree and the way of life here.

What sort of things beyond your work and the island itself are you passionate about?

My family, wildlife, health & wellbeing.

What made you consider opening a gym on the island? Did you encounter any challenges and how did you overcome them?

I have been working in Tiree taking spinning classes, massage and beauty treatments for the past five years. I move my bikes many times from Farmhouse cafe, to the auction ring, to the Hynish Centre and just wanted a permanent place.

We invested a lot of time and money to renovate the house. I had to get a business loan to purchase all the equipment. We also had to go through the planning application process which I’m delighted to say has gone through smoothly. Thanks to the Tiree community and Michael Hollidays support to whom I’m very grateful.

How have the service(s) you provide impacted the island?

I hope to have contributed positively to the community’s health and wellbeing, and to have provided a positive experience to visiting holiday makers.

Do you have other plans to expand the gym or the services you provide?

I strive to improve and learn so I can provide a better service.

Health, fitness and beauty is always changing and improving so I am trying to do my best to provide what’s most beneficial and value for money.

What do you consider your greatest achievement – professional or personal – thus far?

I qualified as a fitness instructer, sports therapist and beauty therapist when I was eighteen. I’ve worked in the industry since, which is over twenty-five years.

Having Gym ‘n’ Tonic at this stage in my career is a dream come true.

Gym ‘n’ Tonic is open Mon – Fri between 10 – 6am. Please call Claire on 07739969949 for further details.

Tiree Flag Finalists Chosen

The Tiree Flag Competition has four finalists. The month-long competition attracted an extraordinary 261 entries from as far afield as Canada, Switzerland and South Uist, as well as many from Glasgow and the island itself.

Some were sketched in crayon, some carefully hand-drawn, and some produced to the highest design standards. The quality was extremely high, with twenty or thirty exceptional designs.

The committee was led by the Lord Lyon, Scotland’s flag authority, and Philip Tibbetts from the Flag Institute, both experienced in community flag competitions. It went about its business in a methodical way, grouping the entries into groups.

Simple designs were favoured, and it was stressed that flags should be timeless: they should be as beautiful and relevant in a hundred years time as they are today. The commonest design was a variant of the Nordic cross, an off-centre cross used by Nordic countries such as Norway and Iceland, and more recently by Shetland, Orkney, Barra and South Uist. The second commonest design used stripes, often using blue, yellow and green, to symbolise the flat, fertile island and the long sandy beaches. Others used the shape of a wave, the sun, the corncrake and the Tiree black-roofed houses to convey the essence of the island.

The committee, which also included Dr John Holliday, Ian Gillies, Lachie Brown, Rosemary Omand, Donna MacLean and Annine MacLean argued over the merits of the different entries for four hours, before coming to a conclusion, although the debate continued over the finer details for over a week.

We hope to have the finalists’ designs flying at the Agricultural Show in July, and voting will be open to the public then.

We want, however, to give people a chance to see the designs before then, so we have put them up in colour on our website

Surprisingly for something so simple, you need to look at a flag for a long time to really appreciate it. The committee really appreciates the time and effort put into the competition by those who entered: they all contributed to the success of the project. Now over to you!

Tiree School Sports Day

Tiree High School Sports Day started of with a Rainbow Olympics for Pre 5-P3 children. The Rainbow themed events saw children jumping (over the rainbow), running, balancing, throwing and pulling, showing everybody the skills and qualities they have been developing in PE lessons.

The afternoons Inter House Track and field saw pupils from P4-S6 battle it out for their respective houses – Clansman, Columba and Claymore. Every pupil took part in seven events whereby they tried to achieve their best possible time, distance or height to achieve one of the four standards-participation (5 points), Bronze, Silver, Gold, Diamond (25 points). The emphasis is on being the best you possibly can be and having fun whilst doing so.

It was a great afternoon with bags of determination, grit and school spirit on display. The afternoon finished with the Tiree pipe band playing whilst the crowds cheered on the houses pulling with all their might in the Tug of war.

All the children were able to get a lovingly made rainbow fruit stick to refresh them, made by the Parent council. The family watching treated themselves to something from the Cobbled Calf.

After all the results were tallied up Clansman won the day by just two points but the Johnny MacKenzie Trophy for Inter-House Sport was shared between Clansman and Columba due to results in other interhouse events throughout the year. Claymore were only just behind and are looking strong for next year…..

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