A private archive of Tiree papers, which have sat in the cellars of Invereray Castle for 350 years, could see the light of day for the first time – if An Iodhlann can raise £5,000 to complete funding for a fascinating new research project. The Argyll family documents, censuses, letters, rent rolls, maps and reports about the island have been gathering dust for centuries in the family’s home. As part of a deal with the government, the estate has now undertaken to allow public access. The first task is to find out exactly what’s there, repair any records that are crumbling to dust, and then copy them so that islanders, historians and all those around the world with Tiree connections can begin the huge task of sifting through the treasure trove. Eminent scholars like Ronald Black and Donald William Stewart from Edinburgh University have already been attracted to one of Scotland’s hidden jewels.
Sadly, a bigger application for the whole archive has been turned down by the Heritage Lottery Fund for the time being, but the Tiree part of the project can still go ahead, thanks to an amazing £10,000 grant from the Windfall Fund added to £5,000 from An Iodhlann’s own pockets. Now we badly need £5,000 from supporters to complete the package so that we can start work at the beginning of next year. Ishbel MacKinnon, the Inveraray archivist, is leading the programme. Family history enthusiasts will be able to see estate rent rolls for the first time, the island will see a number of exhibitions about the collection, long lost Gaelic stories about Tiree have been unearthed, and Ishbel is coming to talk at A’ Bhuain – Tiree Homecoming 2016.
Dr John Holliday, chair of An Iodhlann told An Tirisdeach, “Professor Allan Macinnes has called the Inveraray collection the most significant private archive in Scotland. We are now on the verge of opening up this treasure chest and starting the long job of trying to understand our ‘Secret Island’. If you put all the estate papers on one shelf it would stretch to 100 metres – and a tenth of these papers are about Tiree. There are rental records for each croft going back two hundred years, 18th century reports on the harbours and fishing on the island and letters from ministers and factors. We have already had some large donations from Canada to help us towards our target, but if you can help in any way, please write to An Iodhlann, Scarinish, Tiree, PA77 6UH or visit our website.”