Category Archives: Latest Stories

A’ Bhuain – The Tiree Homecoming – A Great Success

An Talla was once again packed with a crowd on Friday the 27th of May as a wonderful week of activities to celebrate the Tiree Homecoming came to an end! The final concert and dance organised by An Commun Tirisdeach – The Tiree Association was an exceptional night which finished off an even better week.

A’ Bhuain 2016, ten years in the making but worth the wait, was described as many visiting ‘homecomers’ as the best week of their lives. With over 130 people from all over the world descending on Tiree the island was a hive of activity with an action packed week of talks, ceilidhs, plays, workshops, dancing, music, storytelling and much more!

We covered the beginning of the week in the last edition of An Tirisdeach, when we reported on the wonderful opening ceremony chaired by local man Gordon Connell along with a talk on Tiree’s Whisky heritage and launch of Tiree Whisky Company – which you can read more about on page 12. On Monday we were also treated to an interesting lecture by Donald Meek who talked about his life growing up on Tiree, family and memories of Tiree. Tuesday marked the beginning of the workshops that were on offer throughout the week. There was an excellent turn out for each workshop, which included tutoring from Tiree’s elite! You could choose from ceilidh dancing with Jessie Gray, accordion lessons with Eilidh MacFadyen, Ulpan (Gaelic) classes with Rhoda Meek and singing lessons from Ishbel Campbell. Workshops ran from 10am through to lunchtime, when attendees were then able to indulge in delicious soup and sandwich lunch, and a variety of homebaking. Each day a different local committee took their turn in the kitchen, using the opportunity to fundraise for their group or activities. Lunches were open to everyone and each day there were special guests from the Tiree community in attendance.

Tuesday saw our second talk of the week, from Alison Kennedy and Mary MacLean who gave an informative talk about Captain Donald MacKinnon. That same day, local RSPB officer, John Bowler led a walk and bird talk, looking at Tiree’s special birds.

Tuesday continued to be a very busy day indeed! In the evening we were treated to a fantastic performance from Tiree’s ‘West End Players’ who performed the Napier Play, written and directed by Mabel Macarthur. The play was excellently written, directed and performed, telling the story of the Napier Commission Enquiry, which was held in Kirkapol Church on the 7th of August 1883, which led to many of Tiree’s residents emmigrating to foreign lands. And Tuesday is still not finished. After the play attendees got the opportunity to dance to two of Tiree’s finest accordion players, Ian Smith from Trail West and Eilidh MacFadyen from Dùn Mòr.

The sun shone all weekend, with Tiree living up to its name of the ‘sunshine isle’, giving us perfect conditions for Wednesday’s walks and tours. Doctor John kicked the day off with a talk on the Vikings of Tiree, a subject that he has been researching for some time now! Following on from this talk there was then a graveyard tour led by Catriona Smyth, who has worked on a project with An Iodhlann to map and transcribe old gravestones from three of Tiree’s oldest graveyards!

During Wednesday afternoon participants also got the chance to go on the very popular Tiree Tour with Mabel Macarthur and Nancy Kennedy. The bus tour takes attendees all over the island giving them an insight into a variety of interesting facts about Tiree, from history and present day! The tour was very well attended and gave everyone the opportunity to see Tiree at its very best! On Wednesday evening we were treated to an excellent night of tunes, songs and stories from the very popular Skipinnish! Lead accordionist and Tiree native, Angus MacPhail and his band had the whole hall toe tapping and singing along to their very popular songs along with a variety of famous Tiree tunes! It was an excellent night, enjoyed by all!!

With the week nearing an end, Thursday saw us hearing from another Tiree local, Ian Smith who was joined by ‘homecomer’ Sharon Clayton, to tell us about the Balephuil Fishing Disaster of 1856. An interesting talk took place along with a field visit to the site of the disaster. In the evening, homecomers got the opportunity to experience a traditional Tiree ceilidh in the homes of various locals. There were tunes, singing, storytelling and poetry from a host of local and visiting guests, an excellent experience for all!

Friday brought us to the last day of this terrific week long event, but there was still lots to cover! The morning was started with the crofting tour, organised by the Cattle Show committee. This fully booked bus tour stopped at various crofts and farms around the island, looking at old and new farming practices along with hearing about some of the history of crofting on Tiree! Back in An Talla there were back to back talks, starting with ‘The Black Factor’ presented by Robin K Campbell who talked about the infamous factor, John Campbell. Straight after this we heard from Archie Henderson who talked to us about his research into the ‘Kirk Session Minutes’. And on Friday evening, we come to the last event of the week, the final concert and dance organised by The Tiree Association! Both events welcomed a host of extremely talented musicians,some who have never performed on Tiree before and others who are native to the island. The concert was put together by the musical director for the evening, Mary Ann Kennedy and we were treated to an excellent mix of tunes and song, that complimented the theme of the homecoming event!

Many stayed on for the dance which followed the concert and An Talla was full of people dancing, singing and socialising – creating an excellent atmosphere to round off a fantastic event! From start to finish, A’ Bhuain, The Tiree Homecoming 2016 was a wonderfully organised event, which will leave people with excellent memories for years to come. An Tirisdeach would like to say a very big well done to all of the hard working committee and people who were involved in making the event so special and we are eagerly waiting on confirmation of ‘take three’!

For more pictures, videos and accounts of the week’s activities, make sure you log on to the website and social media pages!

Help Monitor The Whales and Dolphins of Scotland

wdc_shorewatchA community-led citizen science project is seeking dedicated volunteers to monitor the whales and dolphins of Scotland.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) runs the Shorewatch project, a network of volunteers watching out for cetacean species at designated sites across Scotland. WDC uses sighting information from volunteers to aid in the protection of whales and dolphins across the country.

There is a great variety of marine wildlife around Scotland, and the Shorewatch programme recorded more than 1,000 sightings last year alone – and have had further fantastic sightings this year. The Moray Firth is home to a population of around 190 bottlenose dolphins that travel throughout the firth and as far down the east coast as Scarborough in England. From the visitor centre at the Scottish Dolphin Centre in Spey Bay, Whale and Dolphin Conservation have been recording sightings of these dolphins, as well as other cetacean species in the area, for over ten years, and are now seeking passionate volunteers to support this work in coastal areas across the country.

Along with the resident bottlenose dolphin and harbour porpoise populations off the Scottish coasts, Shorewatch volunteers have also recorded sightings of Minke whale, Humpback whale and even Orca, among others. Katie Dyke, Scottish Conservation officer at WDC, says ‘Scotland is an amazing place to see whales and dolphins. WDC Shorewatch works in 23 coastal communities across Scotland, training local volunteers to record their whale and dolphin sightings’. She added, ‘It is so important to have eyes on the sea to protect and monitor the species’. The data provided through Shorewatch will help to better understand where the animals are going, and in turn help in their protection. All gathered data is distributed to national organisations to form plans to protect these magnificent animals.

The Shorewatch project currently has over 150 active volunteers, stretching around the northeast and north-west coasts from Aberdeen to the Outer Hebrides, and saw twelve different species of cetacean last year alone. These volunteers are vital to the continued running of the project, and WDC Shorewatch seeks further volunteers to aid in this initiative. WDC Shorewatch runs training days for anyone that is interested in becoming a volunteer and joining the Shorewatch project. Following their training, in which attendees are trained to identify the variety of cetacean species around Scotland and record their sightings data, volunteers are provided with watching equipment, including binoculars, and begin to record their Shorewatch efforts from designated coastal sites.

The Shorewatch team will be visiting Tiree on the 15th and 16th of June (more info in the poster within this article) and would love to meet keen volunteers; we will also be offering Shorewatch training sessions. Anyone interested in attending or learning more information can contact the Spey Bay centre on 01343 829065, or email the Shorewatch team at shorewatch@whales.org.

TMF Announce Line Up For Record Capacity Event

tmf_2016Tiree Music Festival (15-17 July) this week announced a very special list of acts for what will be the biggest TMF to date. Over the course of the three days, acts including Levellers, Red Hot Chili Pipers, Sharon Shannon, Skerryvore, Skipinnish, Blazin Fiddles and legendary Irish quartet Flook will play to a 2000 strong crowd – over treble the population of the island.

Famed for its laid back atmosphere, TMF attracts a diverse audience and is well-known as being one of the most family-friendly in the UK. The multi-award winning event has sold out every year since its inception in 2010, with early bird tickets for the 2016 being sold out in four hours.

The additional capacity will enable more people to experience the TMF adventure than ever before. This year’s festival will feature three stages including the Calmac Live Lounge, set in the heart of the TMF Community Village – a purpose built arena packed with a host of creative activities and the best of west coast produce from Argyll Foods. As well as the music, there will be special sea-life trips with Basking Shark Scotland and also the first ever TMF ‘flash-mob’ co-ordinated by Eden Court Creative. “This is the most exciting and eclectic TMF line up to date,” says Artistic Director Daniel Gillespie. “Securing international acts like Levellers, Flook, Sharon Shannon and Nashville singer Jesse Terry alongside the very best Scottish artists like Breabach, Blazin Fiddles and Fergie MacDonald is what makes the journey to TMF so special. And being known as the ‘Hawaii of the North’, it is only right that our first ever flash-mob is Hawaiian themed!”

With four extra sailings from Calmac and three extra scheduled flights from FlyBe, the journey to the ‘Hawaii of the North’ is more accessible than ever before. Festival Director Stewart MacLennan says: “We are thrilled to confirm that TMF 2016 will be the biggest and best to date thanks to the additional capacity provided by Calmac and FlyBe. These additional travel routes are not only providing more capacity to the island but more flexibility of when to travel, which is fantastic for the event and the island as a whole.” Those who aren’t lucky enough to snap up tickets can soak in the sights and sounds as BBC ALBA will record highlights and performances from the island festival for the second year, providing an insight into the charm and colour that makes the festival and the island so appealing. After the success of last year’s footage, BBC ALBA have confirmed that the 2016 coverage will increase to 11 episodes and 6hrs of footage including a special episode on A’ Bhuain – the Tiree Homecoming 2016.

For all the latest information follow us on Facebook, Twitter and visit the website www.tireemusicfestival.co.uk

Tiree Welcomes ‘The Homecomers’

After years of discussions and hard work by the dedicated committee, ‘A’ Bhuain’ – The Tiree Homecoming is finally here!

Tiree is awash with flags situated throughout the island to welcome the homecomers, some who have come from as far as New Zealand. The event (which will only be half way through the week of activities by the time we go to print) was kicked off on Sunday, when The Church of Scotland and the Baptist Church came together to hold a joint church service in Heylipol, which was very well attended. The picture above gives you a good idea of the amount of people who have come from all over the world to enjoy the festivities which are on offer and also includes a host of locals who get to take advantage of the excellent programme of events that has been organised.

A’ Bhuain was officially opened on Monday, when the registration of over 200 people took place in the morning, attendees where then treated to a lovely lunch prepared by The Scarinish Hotel. Chairman of the A’ Bhuain committee, Doctor John Holliday welcomed all to An Talla and commented on how wonderful it was to see so many people ‘come home’ for this event. He joked that in order to combat Tiree’s declining population, visiting attendees to the island were not only registering for the week of activities, but also registering to immigrate back to Tiree – wouldn’t that be nice! People have travelled from all over the world to atten A’ Bhuain, 35 from Canada, 6 from New Zealand, 1 from Australia, 2 from The U.S.A, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and France, 18 from England, 1 from the isle of Man, 60 from mainland Scotland and of course all of the Tiree locals.

Gordon Connell continued to entertain the crowd with stories and memories and we heard music from the wonderfully talented school pupils including the choir, which was lovely to hear. Monday was a hive of activity, that also included the official launch of ‘Tiree Whisky Company’ and gave everyone the opportunity to get their hands on the first bottling from this venture between two Tiree locals, Ian Smith and Alain Campbell. Both boys conducted an interesting talk on the history of Tiree whisky and gave an insight into the making of ‘The Cairnsmuir’. In the evening we were also treated to a very interesting talk by Professor Donald Meek, ‘Between Island and Memory’, who gave us an overview of his life growing up on Tiree, treated us to a poem or two and also some songs sung by Ethal MacCallum and Gordon Scott. And that was only day one!

The rest of the weeks programme includes, talks, home ceilidhs, an island tour, a bird walk, croft visits, The Napier Play, a Skipinnish concert and rounding off the week with a big Ho Rò Gheallaidh concert and dance organised by An Comunn Tirisdeach – The Tiree Association. Each day a local community group is preparing and putting on lunches, for all to enjoy. An Tirisdeach would like to congratulate the A’ Bhuain committee and all who have been involved in putting on this event. With plenty of things to do and get involved in, we will be reporting back on all of the activity in the next edition of An Tirisdeach! To all of the homecomers, we would like to welcome you to Tiree and hope you enjoy your visit!

Keep up to date with all of the weeks activity and have a look at some of the photos by visiting www.tireehomecoming.com

Gordon Connell Enters Traditional Music Hall of Fame

FOR only a small island with a population of not much more than 700, Tiree has produced an inordinate number of accordionists, not least those playing in such well-known west coast bands as Skipinnish, Skerryvore and Gunna Sound, as well as in up-and-coming young outfits such as Trail West and Dùn Mòr.

Much of the credit for this must go to local resident Gordon Connell, a self-taught piano-accordionist whose enthusiasm for the music and dedication as a teacher has inspired some 100 accordionists on the island which has been his home since 1962.

Voted Music Tutor of the Year in the 2010 Scots Trad Music Awards, Gordon first arrived on the island to take up a post as history and later modern studies teacher at Cornaigmore School – now Tiree High School – and by 1970 he was teaching accordion there. Described as “a natural teacher”, he taught initially by ear, although the arrival of a music teacher on the school’s staff in the mid-1970s enabled his pupils to read music, making it easier for Gordon to teach them – although he describes his own music-reading skills as “still pretty basic”. His teaching may have been on a voluntary basis, but his impact on the island’s young musicians has been huge. On a BBC Alba documentary about the accordion, Beò air a’ Bhogsa – “Outside the Box”, a few years ago, one of his students, Ian Smith, the accordionist of Trail West and a finalist in the 2014 Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition, commented: “I don’t think anyone could match what Gordon did – an immense amount of work as a tutor.” “Gordon is quite different to any other music tutor I’ve ever had,” says Daniel Gillespie, accordionist with the now internationally renowned west-coast folk-rockers Skerryvore. “It’s unbelievable how natural teaching is to him and how much patience he has. Gordon would be first to say that he’s not a world-class accordion player but he is a world-class teacher. And he’s never taken a penny for his teaching.”

Yet Gordon didn’t actually take up the accordion until he arrived on the island. Born in 1940, he grew up in the village of Blairmore, nine miles outside Dunoon. He attended Strone Primary School & Dunoon Grammar school, then went on to gain a degree at Glasgow University before doing his teacher-training year at Jordanhill Collage. Rather than music, his main interests while growing up were golf and football, and he still maintains an enthusiastic interest in the latter sport. He recalls, however, listening to the Saturday evening Scottish country dance music programme on the radio. It wasn’t until he arrived in Tiree, however, that he took up the box, and in hindsight describes his initial efforts as “rather painful to listen to”. With perseverance, however, his playing improved and by 1970 was teaching the instrument as a leisure activity at the school. Gordon was also a regular at local dances and functions, taking to the stage with band members Murray Omand and the late Stewart Langley. The band entertained Tiree for many years and earlier this year Gordon and Murray took to the stage once again to play at The Tiree Associations very succesful event – Tiree Memories. Many people commented that the music on the night took them right back to the ‘good ole days’ of dancing to Gordon and Murray’s music in the old hall in Crossapol and other venues throughout the island.

The island’s accordion scene started to really take off around 1990, says Gordon, who credits the fact that students were starting to compete at the National Mòd and also that Tiree started its own annual Fèis.He retired from his teaching job at the school in 1996, but was persuaded to carry on teaching accordion by the enthusiasm of his pupils. “What still motivates me is the great response I get from my students,” he says. “At present I have a really keen group at various stages; they’re all fantastic people and are a pleasure to teach.”

Tiree, he adds, is “a small and friendly community. Most of my former students still keep in touch – many of them I count as friends.” So far as his own playing is concerned, he declares simply that “teaching youngsters who are about to overtake you is motivation enough for me to keep practising and trying to learn new tunes – I wouldn’t really class myself as a player. “I guess the most satisfying thing for me is seeing my students progress – some to form their own bands – at least four of them are making a living from their music and a couple of others are bandleaders with day jobs, but extremely competent just the same.”

A’ Bhuin – The Tiree Homecoming

After months of organisation and planning, A’ Bhuain week is almost upon us!

In just over a week’s time Tiree will welcome a host of people from all over the world who are returning home to join the rest of Tiree for this week long event!

An excellent programme of activities has been planned, including talks, workshops, ceilidhs, site visits, dancing, classes, a play, whisky, a book launch, live music and lots more!

Everyone is invited to take part and I’m sure there will be something that interests most people. The whole programme can be viewed and downloaded by visiting www.tireehomecoming.com.

An Talla will be a hive of activity throughout the week, so make sure you pop in to see what is happening. Lunches will be served daily, merchandise will be on sale and hopefully there will be lots of people milling around, chatting and having a great time. The committee look forward to seeing you all there and hope you enjoy the week. If you have any questions or would like further information then please visit the website above or get in touch with Jessie Gray (jessiegray49{@}gmail.com) or Rosemary Omand (rosemary.tiree{@}icloud.com)

Two Tiree Locals Named Surfing Champions

Two local Tiree boys recently competed in the Scottish Surfing Championships up in Thurso and were both crowned champions within their competitions!

Finn MacDonald, 14 from Balevullin came first in the under 18s and Ben Larg, 11 from Balemartine also claimed first prize in the under 14s competition – what an excellent achievement!

The competition is held annually and attracts some of Scotland’s top surfers with Thurso also ranked as one of the best surfing venues in the UK – it also looks like one of the coldest!

Finn and Ben have both been surfing from a young age, taking advantage of Tiree’s beautiful beaches and good surfing conditions – and the years of practice definitely paid off last weekend!

Ben also competed in the under 16s competition and it was commented that ‘he was one to watch for the future’.

On behalf of the whole island, An Tirisdeach would like to congratulate both boys! Well done Finn and Ben!

A Tiree Flag?

Barra flagBarra has one (green with a white Nordic cross).

South Uist also has one (green with a white and blue Nordic cross). The Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Angus all have one. The Scottish saltire was everywhere during the independence referendum. But should Tiree get its own flag?

 

 

South Uist flagWhen I go to Shetland, I am always struck by the number of houses that fly the Shetland flag. They send the message: we are proud of this part of the country, and we belong here.

I wondered at the last Community Council meeting whether it was time to think about a Tiree flag again. Designing a flag might look easy, but it’s tricky to find something new, something simple, and something beautiful. We would need a competition where designers here and all over the world could submit their thoughts, and then an island-wide vote to choose a favourite.

But first we need to decide if we want a flag at all! Some people love flags. Others think they are a waste of time and money. So Tiree Community Council is launching a consultation: let us know by the end of June what you think, yes or no. Write to the Community Council in Crossapol, post a vote in Bùth a’ Bhaile or the surgery, or go to our website and vote there. Have your say and take part in the Great Tiree Flag Vote!

Scottish Hydro Store Closing

Scottish Hydro closing

Two weeks ago Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) announced that they planned to close their 37 remaining Hydro Electric stores, including ours in Tiree.

The Hydro store has been operating from their premises in Scarinish for many years and will be a big loss to our community, including the loss of a job. The press release from SSE stated that all shops were expected to close by the 15th of May and we received confirmation that the Tiree branch will be closed as of the 2nd of May.

SSE director of domestic retail Stephen Forbes said changing shopping habits and more customer choice meant the shops have been loss-making for a number of years. He said: “Customers’ shopping habits have changed considerably since these shops were first opened with more and more people shopping online, especially for larger electrical items. We know some of these shops have been on local high streets for a long time so we did not take this decision lightly but footfall and sales have reduced considerably and there is, unfortunately, no realistic prospect of that long-term trend reversing.”

Island Communities Take Action Against Council Library Cuts

The Council cuts have been described as ‘salami slicing’; this is throwing the whole sausage away

 

Tiree High School Parent Council and Tiree Community Council have issued a press release in response to the proposed cuts to the library service, which will result in the loss of library facilities in Tiree.

Tiree High School Parent Council, Tiree Community Council, and local residents of Tiree are furious over the Council cut to their library service, joining the community of Mull who are also up in arms about the proposal. Argyll and Bute Councillors decided, as part of their budget for next year, that Tiree, along with Mull and Iona, should lose their secondary school libraries. This decision has sent shock waves through the community, as the librarian on Tiree also serves the thriving primary school and the wider community. Paul le Roux, Vice-Chair of the Tiree Parent Council told the Oban Times, “We are appalled by this short-sighted decision. The Scottish Government has made the improvement of literacy and numeracy a priority, yet Argyll and Bute want to take our only public access to books away from this island community by removing our librarian at a time when use of our library by the community and children is growing year by year.”

A Tiree resident, who has children at the school but asked not to be named, said, “Tiree High School library caters not only for the High School, but also for the island generally, including Bookbug for under 5s. This is a community that cannot head down the road to another public library – it is our only library. Buying books online is not a replacement for a public library service. Not only does it cost money, but on the one hand we are encouraging children to reduce their screen time, while taking away the opportunity to be able to offer them a good old-fashioned book in its place. Tiree will be losing our library while Argyll and Bute Council reassures us that their hanging baskets will be protected – although I haven’t seen many of those on Tiree.”

Dr John Holliday, Convenor of Tiree Community Council, said, “The Community Council is outraged by this decision by Argyll and Bute, which is possibly in breach of their statutory obligations. If this cut goes ahead our nearest public library will be a four hour ferry ride and an overnight stay away. Our librarian, as part of our community school, provides a wonderful service for older members of the community, for many of whom their day out to the library is one of the high points of their week. It works both ways; the school pupils benefit from the books that the Library Service sends out to Tiree. The Council cuts have been described as ‘salami slicing’; this is throwing the whole sausage away.”

The two bodies are calling upon Argyll and Bute council to engage with the Tiree High School Parent Council and Tiree Community Council and to rethink their decision to deny their community this valuable resource. A petition has already been set up to gather support for all libraries affected in Argyll and Bute. You can sign it here:

www.change.org/p/shout-out-for-school-librarians-in-argyll-and-bute

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